|Current music:||We'll Meet Again - Benny Goodm|
"What makes a man a man?" The opening phrase of the film, wonderfully narrated by John Hurt is of far greater significance to the plot line of Hellboy than one might think. To the casual observer, this film may easily be dismissed as yet another Comic-to-Film eye-candy romp filled with eye popping special effects and very little along the line of character development. Many reviews peperring the internet have made similar statements, but I am here to say they are all dead wrong.
Hellboy surprises us by giving us a startlingly human hero in the creature, no, the MAN known as Hellboy. So genuine is the character that we overlook the garishness of his appearance and see him instead as simply a man.
Found sixty years ago by a top secret government organization bent on stopping Hitler from gaining control of occult forces, Hellboy was raised in secret by Dr. Broome whom he affectionately refers to as "Pop".
Yes, I know we have seen all this before, a collection of people with unique powers fighting the forces of evil and there are times when this film has a slightly "Men in Black" type of feel, but what you find if you really study this film, really pay attention, really give this film a chance is that, despite the monsters and the villains and the outrageous action sequences, this is really a story about humanity, a story about choices, about finding out who we are, coming to grips with it and simply being it.
Our heroes are all believably flawed individuals, from Hellboy, a seven foot tall creature that is "part heaven, part hell" who files down his horns to appear more human. He's sometimes reckless, somewhat of a smart ass, always seems in control of any situation, so long as the situation doesn't involve expressing his feelings, especially for the pyrokenetic Liz Sherman. Hellboy is a beautifully portrayed character, full of sympathy and kindness, yet also a capable individual, just not particularly good with people.
Liz Sherman is another good example of the flawed hero. She's a pyrokenetic who has a dark past. She's also in love with Hellboy, yet denies this even to herself. In her mind, he represents a separation from the world and an admission that she can never be a part of "normal society".
Abe Sapien, an unknown amphibious creature with the ability to see what has happened by touching an object is the major comic relief, but more than merely serving in this capacity, he has a much greater roloe as a figure for Hellboy to relate to. There are no characters just "thrown in" for the sake of a plot device or to simply "die", a rarity for these types of films.
The villains are far more enigmatic. The main villain being Rasputin, yes, THAT Rasputin. It was he who summoned forth Hellboy sixty years ago, and he holds the dark secret of Hellboy's true purpose. Accompanying him are Ilsa, a woman he has seduced and granted eternal life in order to serve him, and the Nazi Kroenen, perhaps the more disturbing of the villains. Kroenen is also somewhat immortal. He's a wizard with blades and also addicted to surgery. One of the more chilling scenes in the film involves something as simple as Kroenen sitting in his makeshift study, surrounded by steel masks to cover his face, listening to an old phonograph.
Then, of course, there is the token monster. This one takes the shape of a "demon" named Sammael. I use the term "demon" loosely as this is more Lovecraftian and less King James. Sammael is a well designed monster that does serve a greater purpose other than to simply have a monster for Hellboy to fight.
Make no mistake, the fight scenes are amazing, the action sequences explosive, but there is, beneath the surface of that, a very human love story and a few very touching moments along the way. We're really shown Hellboy's human side when he's spying on Liz Sherman and talking to a nine year old boy. You get a sense that the Character of Hellboy is a complex one, gentle and brutal when needed, thoughtful and sometimes callous. He can be patient as well as hot tempered.
Do not make the mistake of simply dismissing this film as yet another comic book film. Keep an open mind and pay close enough attention and you'll find Hellboy is a pleasant surprise.