Directed by Guillermo del Toro
The little red demon that could – in many ways this is an indie comic book adaptation, as opposed to big-budget productions like the Spiderman and X-Men series. The title is not well known outside of hard-core devotees and none of the cast members has the name recognition that reassures those endowed with the power to green-light film production. Still, Hellboy had a smashing opening weekend for an April opening with a lesser-known lead and, after four weeks, is on track to at least break even. That is, Ron Pearlman was lesser-known. The story is that director Guillermo del Toro had to go to battle with the studio to cast Pearlman -- he had to accept a lesser budget ($65 million -- a little low for an effects-intensive film) but he stuck to his guns. I can't imagine better casting -- Pearlman is spot-on great as a demon adopted as a baby [demon] by a scientist to be a force for good. Pearlman’s Hellboy is a wise-cracking, working-class, outer-borough New Yorker who just happens to be born in Hell and endowed with fire-proof skin and a hand made of stone – “the right hand of doom”. He chews cigars, eats chili by the gallon and frets over writing a short note to his girl.
What set the film apart for me was the romance between Hellboy and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), another freak with the power to burst into flames when provoked. This is just a comic-book movie yet that relationship worked better that any romantic connection that I've seen recently on the big screen. His devotion to her was so strong, so well rendered, it gave the movie heart.
John Hurt was well cast as the head scientist/good guy and father figure to Hellboy. The villains were something else -- regular old Nazis and CG monsters – ok but nothing really new. How many movies have ripped of Darth Vader when they can’t come up with an original villain? The Rasputin character (head bad guy, played by Karel Roden) was the most interesting villain but the film belongs to Pearlman. In two categories: (a) Quality of development of the Hellboy character; and (b) Romantic connection between Hellboy and Liz; -- I would rank this film among the top art house films – unheard of for a comic-book movie! I wish Hellboy continued success at the box office in hopes of seeing more of the same type of project in the future.
Images are copyright Revolution Studios.
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