BlokeBusting The Essentials #44: Hellboy
This one is going to be quite fun to discuss, so let’s just go for it!
This film was my introduction to GDT. And I think that was a great way to start. I still haven’t seen some of his more “out-there” stuff, but his style fits this film (and material) down to the ground. I recall really enjoying this film when I first saw it and I had no knowledge of (and still don’t really) the comics that it was based on. So what made this film so enticing to me? I think I should go the usual route and get into the nitty gritty.
This film is an interesting mish-mash of a few different styles. You’ve got the fantasy genre sorted. You’ve got an alternate history universe going on (which is a lot more prevalent than you might think) and you’ve got elements of Noir showing here and there, most notably in the way characters dress and act. Plus the lighting in this film is on point. The darks really get dark and any colours pop out just like you would expect from a comic book. The character of Hellboy is also really cool to think about when you get to know him. Imagine the shenanigans you can dream up with a character that no-one knows about who can’t go out in public without risking the public finding out about the supernatural! Well, this film has you covered there too.
- Hellboy: Ron Perlman
Yeah, this is possibly my favourite role of RP’s. He’s gruff, he’s red, he’s got a GIANT ROCK HAND and he’s funny. He’s flawed, he’s lovable and he’s not even really a proper hero. It’s just fun to watch him on-screen and fun to see how he gets himself out of situations he’s usually put himself in. So yeah, this version of Hellboy is my favourite. He even managed to do it so well that it’s kinda obvious that the 2019 version couldn’t improve on what RP did so David Harbour had to copy his speech patterns and general mannerisms. What else can you say after that!
- Liz Sherman: Selma Blair
I didn’t care much for this character the first time I watched this film. However, after a second watch, I can see why they went with what they did. There’s a fun layer of actual broken psyche there that’s really well done. You can feel the strain her powers have brought into her life and that she doesn’t want to deal with that. She does suffer from having to be the love interest for 2 characters in the film, but she does work really well with RP as Hellboy and you can see why these two characters would be drawn together (no pun intended).
- Abe Sapien: Doug Jones/David Hyde Pierce
It wouldn’t be a GDT film without some cool lanky guy in a weird suit. And Abe is an interesting character to have in the film, simply because he’s so logical and slow-talking compared to the others. But that’s why he also works. He’s a good grounding rod for the film, especially once John Hurt departs the scene. I can understand why they had DHP do the voice, but it was a bit odd. I’m glad they let Doug do it in the sequel.
- Rasputin, Kroenen & Haupstein
These guys were also quite fun to watch. Well, Rasputin and Kroenen were. Once again we have the issue of the female character really seeming useless. Sure, she handled a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, she brought Rasputin back and she is fairly heartless. But she ultimately seems to do everything because she loves the bad guy, she’s evil and that’s about it. Big whoop. However the other two do make up for it in the villain stakes. They’re insane, they’re ridiculous and they’re a joy to watch as they chew the scenery and ham it up.
What Would I Change
Rather than say what I didn’t like, which is simply negative, I thought I’d suggest what changes I’d make if I had the power. And here they are:
— I’d get rid of John Meyers. He’s basically there because John Hurt knows he’s unwell. He’s also there to be a possible rival for Hellboy’s affection with Liz. And they are the weakest plot points in the film. Removing John Meyers would free up space for better character development with Abe, allow the Father giving up his life to have even more weight and let Liz and Hellboy have a “date” while showing how insecure they both are.
— Just do more with Haupstein. I don’t care what. Make her the one who releases Sammael, let her be more than just a bystander when Rasputin is doing his stuff, let her be the one to kill Father. Just anything!
— Lay more clues and hooks around the possibility of the Ogdru Jahad coming back. No real reason here, I just think that hyping up a Lovecraftian horror show of undying gods should have more of a fallout than simply having Hellboy finish one off and then that’s it.
So, with all that being said, let’s see what Bubba has to chime in about on this one:
I’ve seen this film quite a few different times and the last few times I’ve watched this I watched the director’s cut that came with the three disc special edition DVD. I’m a fan of Ron Perlman and his version of Hellboy really made me fall in love with the character as a blue collar superhero slash monster hunter. This first film feels like a cross between a studio action movie with only hints of Guillermo del Toro’s creative vision but it’s still enough to make the creatures fascinating and interesting. There’s also a great visceral feeling due to del Toro’s frequent use of practical effects despite occasionally being obvious that the Samael creatures were just guys in a suit. A very impressive and well made suit, but a suit nonetheless. The action beats, the comedy, nearly everything works in this movie except for the audience surrogate character Agent Meyers. The cast is fantastic and it’s always a joy to revisit this film whenever I get the chance.
As far as the significance of this movie within the history of superhero cinema, this film spawned a sequel, two cartoon TV movies, and a reboot just this year. It’s a character that’s been around for a little while and is quite popular. It works well as a superhero horror movie with the elements of Cthulu mythos spread throughout the film even though it’s presented as a more typical superhero action movie with comic relief. When it was released in theaters, it grossed nearly $60M and despite the large budget was still given the go ahead for a sequel, possibly due to success on home video. There had been talks of a third film for a long time and was championed loudly by Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman though the proposed budget was deemed too great a risk and they instead went with a lower budget reboot that became a box office disappointment grossing barely a third of the original.
So there ya go! Danke Herr Wheat. And now we must dive into the 3 questions. You know them by now, but just in case:
- Would I recommend this film to others?
- Does it deserve to be on the list?
- If so, where does it fall?
So let’s smash on into answer 1:
1) Yep. Of course I would! Unless you’re like my wife, who HATES Ron Perlman, there’s nothing to dislike about his portrayal of Hellboy. It’s fairly iconic and well worth a watch!
2) Yup. I bet you all knew that was coming. But yeah, I wouldn’t take this off the list if you paid me.
3) Good question. I’m guessing that you probably can feel where this is going, but I’d say the updated list would look a little like this:
- The Crow
- Dr Strange
- Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
- Batman: The Killing Joke
- Superman 3
- The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
- The Punisher
- Batman & Robin
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- BvS: Dawn Of Justice
Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
And there you go. One Hellboy down, another to go. Though this one will be a bit further down the line. So, until then, if a bald man asks you to open the gates to another realm, JUST SAY NO!!