April 13, 2004 > Hellboy
by Jeremy Inman
During World War II, a Nazi occult faction developed a machine that would open a portal to the deepest regions of space. The Nazis planned to awaken the resting gods of chaos, unleashing a literal hell on earth. Fortunately, the allied forces, aided by a U.S. paranormal specialist named Professor Bruttenholm, were able to defeat the Nazis by destroying the machine. Before the portal could close, a small infant demon was cast through. This demon, with a strange affinity for Baby Ruth bars, was adopted by the Professor and raised to become the U.S. FBI subdivision Department for Paranormal Research and Defense's head agent. Now, Hellboy and his team of "freaks" (including Abe Sapien, a psychic mer-man, and Liz, a woman who can control fire) must protect the world from all paranormal attacks and the forces of darkness.
Hellboy is part Blade, part Men in Black, and part Beauty and the Beast. Director Guillermo del Toro, the same director who brought Blade II to the big screen with such precision, has a knack for portraying the darker comic books of today. As a result, he drops the audience comfortably within the dark, but welcoming, world of Hellboy. More important than the atmosphere, the story of Hellboy is driven by some of the most colorful and unique characters ever to hit the big screen. In a perfect casting decision, Hellboy is played by Ron Perlman with the perfect amount of moxy, bravado, and heart. As his name suggests, Hellboy is a big kid with super powers who is struggling to survive in a world where he doesn't belong. His tale reinforces one of the main themes of the movie; no matter where you come from or who you are "meant" to be, you can always make your own decisions and do the right thing.
One of the most impressive aspects of Hellboy is the special effects used to bring the characters and creatures to life. Perlman as Hellboy looks like he's fresh off the pages of the comic, complete with filed-down horns, tail, and the giant stone "Right Fist of Doom." Supernatural creatures, brought to life by the same special effects studio that created the aliens from Men in Black, look awesome. The results are larger than life battles between forces of evil and Hellboy, who approaches every situation with the same amount of cockiness and bravado no matter how serious the predicament.
Despite the rather dark premise, Hellboy never stops being fun. With a PG-13 rating, it never goes over the top with any violence or gore. For those who find the content matter questionable, the film doesn't focus on any sort of religious context, but rather uses it as a vehicle to convey the loneliness of a character unable to "fit in," but who is nonetheless capable of doing good deeds and having fun while he's at it.