Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guillermo del Toro Retrospective: HELLBOY

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Karel Roden, John Hurt, Jeffrey Tambor, Biddy Hodson
Rated: PG-13

So, yeah, I didn't finish this series before Pacific Rim came out last weekend.  Last week was a bit crazy for me and I had to end up putting this retrospective on hold.  Time was not something that was available for me to have to complete it.  I could have written about the last 3 entries in this series without viewing them, yes.  But to be true to my restrospective format, I like to enter each essay coming off a fresh viewing of the film I'm discussing.  I don't ever want to get away from that.  And being that the last 3 films in this series are kinda lengthy, I needed the time to A) watch them and B) write about them.  Lots of things piled up last week and I had to prioritize and I wasn't able to fit them in.  But, alas, I'm back and hopefully can finish this off this week.  I don't plan on something like this happening again, but you never know.

Following the much successful Blade II, del Toro had a little bit of his pick of the litter.  He reportedly turned down Blade: Trinity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to do Hellboy, an adaption of a popular but little know to the general public Dark Horse comic series.  Once seeing the film, you can easily see how this was an easy choice for del Toro.

Hellboy is essentially a good 'ol monster mash-up romp.  Its a dark, supernatural adventure that doesn't have to take itself too seriously, but manages to keep some higher stakes.  The film manages to be both colorful and grim at the same time.  And one thing to take note is that del Toro's idea of a city plagued by supernatural terror tends to look similar.  Take a look at Mimic, Blade II and Hellboy and you'll see what I'm getting at.

There aren't monsters just littering the entire film, but the ones that do are unique and incredible creatures themselves.  They are colorful and well thought out beings.  Karl Ruprecht Kroenen is one badass creation.  I'm surprised Halloween wasn't littered with dudes dressed as this guy.  He basically is the vampire ninja outfit in Blade II fully realized and able to become its own being.  And he's got scary ass crazy eyes.
When I was discussing with Aaron and Scott about how the summer of 2008 and 1989 were reflective of each other (think Batman, Indiana Jones and James Bond...I'll provide details if you want them) someone asked "What was the Ghostbusters II" and Aaron said Hellboy II.  And really, when I saw the film this time, it really was a modern Ghostbusters taken to a fully supernatural state.  The investigation scenes and such were comical while keeping eerily tense at the same time.  Then when the discovery happened stuff would go haywire.  But in Hellboy it was just amped up x1000.  If you like Ghostbusters and never have given the Hellboy movies a shot, try it out.  Maybe you'll see this connection.

 Hellboy is a film that I think most found much better than expected.  My only qualm is it feels a bit long.  However, I'm not going to fault them with what they were doing to fill that time and that's character development.  While this is an origin story it never feels that way.  We pick up in the middle of some of the characters relationships and are given the character of John Myers to clue us in as we learn with him.  That's essentially the biggest use of the character there is.
Ron Perlman owns this movie.  He was a brilliant casting choice and the only person I could ever imagine taking this on.  He totally gets all the beats between camp, drama and comedy perfect.  Nobody else can take this on in my eyes.  The studio wanted Vin Diesel, but luckily del Toro got his way.  He always wanted to do a project with a Ron Perlman in a lead role and this was really the best shot.  The guy looks absolutely comfortable in makeup that takes up his entire being.  Everything he does comes off as absolutely natural.  And the fact that he seems to get the age and immaturity of Hellboy to a T is just the sign of a true professional.  This is absolutely one of the best performances of a comic hero you can possibly ask for.
The line between practical and CG effects in this movie is a healthy mashup.  Sometimes you can't tell which you are seeing.  And all the costumes and effects are quite engaging.  Destruction feels real and it feels painful.  The coolest has to be Liz's blue fire.  I loved it.  I also was never a big Selma Blair fan until this movie.  I actually really dug her in it and felt she was absolutely perfect in this role.  Maybe the blue fire helped, I dunno.  As good as this story is, the effects supershow going on is impressive enough to carry a weaker film (which this is not).
Hellboy was a film I missed when it was originally out.  I was in college (low on the $$$ always haha) and it just didn't interest me.  I didn't know anything about the comic, wasn't a big del Toro fan either (uneducated about him) and it just looked like a studio stretching to cash in on some of the comic book movie craze going on.  When I finally saw it a couple years later, I realized what a fool I was.  Its not the best comic book movie ever, but it sure is on the better half of them.  Personally I probably dig it more than most.  But holding it up to the comic book films of the era when it came out?  It's likely one of the best.  Its a movie I truly stand by and I think you should check out if you've not seen it before.

Next on the late list for me to catch up on:  Pan's Labyrinth

No comments:

Post a Comment