“… the sense of care and love that went into making this film is definitely felt throughout its runtime.”
Last night I watched Hellboy, which is a movie that was a very big part of my childhood. Hellboy was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, but based on the comic by Mike Mignola. Hellboy follows the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, a secret subset of the FBI which employs various “anomalies” (Hellboy included) that fight the also secret monsters that live in the shadows of the world. And this time the monsters they are fighting are: Nazis. Well, at least a few people who used to be Nazis and they all use magic and stuff.
I want to start this review with a disclaimer of sorts: I haven’t read the Hellboy comics. Any of them. So some of this praise that I’m about to spout may be praise that should rightfully go to the comics. I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t read them.
Anyway one of the best things about Hellboy is the films ability to blend tones so well. Hellboy is a fantasy movie, but it is also an action movie, as well as some touches of horror thrown in, and a good helping of comedy as well. All of this may seem like a mess, but the way Hellboy incorporates it all is masterful. It treats your emotions as though they were a puppet on a string, and del Toro is the puppet-master. You can be laughing one minute, jumping out of your skin the next, all the while being glued to the edge of your seat. It really is an achievement. And the most important thing is that I had so much fun watching Hellboy. Because of all of these tonal shifts I didn’t really know what to expect next, but whatever came was entertaining. I could be watching a sweet fist-fight between Hellboy and a monster, but then the next minute the film turns into an adventure movie not unlike Indiana Jones. The way that it was able to almost transcend these ‘boxes’, and just kind of give everything its own twist was great to watch. And of course all of this praise goes to the writing of the film which was immaculate. Not only in the shifting of tones that I mentioned, but also in the way that fantasy was blended with reality. The characters that were introduced were simultaneously outlandish, but also grounded in reality. They have traits that make them human despite the fact that they are the furthest thing from it. And I know that a lot of this praise would go to the comic (I think), but you can tell that del Toro took this property and made it his own. This isn’t to discredit the comic or anything, I’m just saying that the sense of care and love that went into making this film is definitely felt throughout its runtime. Guillermo del Toro cared about what he was making, and he didn’t want to fuck it up.
Now of course a lot of the writing (especially the characters) only came to life because of the performances, so let’s talk about those a little bit. To me (and many others, I’m sure), Ron Perlman is Hellboy. The way that he plays the character as the badass who is also a pain in the ass in brilliant. Much like Harrison Ford plays Indian Jones, Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy. Hellboy also gives us more Doug Jones who plays Abe Sapien, everyones favourite half man half fish who can touch stuff and see its past. Once again Doug Jones manages to disappear in his role and make us believe that the creature we are seeing actually exists. You also have people like John Hurt and Selma Blair who are great, but I’m a little more hesitant to discuss their performances because of me not being familiar with the source material. One person I will talk about is Jeffrey Tambor, who I honestly forgot was in in this movie. Tambor brings a lot of levity to the movie, but also plays the role of “power-tripping asshole” very well. I guess the last thing to talk about would be the effects. First of all let’s discuss the creature designs. The way that these characters were translated to film is another facet of what I mean when I say that the care of this movie shines through. You can tell that a lot of work went into making everything look right, and it payed off. This movie came out in 2004, but it still looks like it could have come out today. Keeping the characters largely practical was a brilliant idea, and once again shows the care for the source material that was present in this production. As for general effects, once again they look amazing. I don’t want to say that the bulk of the effects were practical, but a lot of the big ones were. This once again makes sure that the film stays timeless for as long as possible. But even the digital effects were done so well that they didn’t stand out to me at all. Sure I could tell an effect was digital if I looked carefully, but in large all of the digital effects were amazing. Sure there were some hiccups here and there, but it is more than understandable for a movie that is 13 years old. Hell, the effects in this movie look better than they did in Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pan’s Labyrinth came out two years later!
Overall Hellboy is a movie that lived up to every fond memory that I had. It blends comedy, action, adventure, fantasy, and even horror so beautifully and it makes sure that you are never bored. You can definitely see the care that went into the films production, and even less timeless things like the special effects still hold up really well.
I give Hellboy an A