It’s easy to see what attracted Guillermo del Toro to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic: its hopeful humanity. The little boys in the director’s allegorical spooker The Devil’s Backbone are gripped by an oppressive political regime just as Hellboy (a remarkable Ron Perlman) is born from the burning embers of another. Consider this paranormal detective an insurance policy against post-war angst. I’ve never laid an eye on Mignola’s comic, but I know a good del Toro film when I see one. Not unlike the night crawlers from Blade II, evil in this action-packed extravaganza is something crazy-sexy-cool. Del Toro understands the allure of evil, and he evokes its seductive pull in the way madman Grigori Rasputin’s minions move through his frame. In many ways Hellboy is a companion piece to Blade II: In both films, del Toro likens the threat of an ancient evil to a pestilence born from a kind of cultural recklessness (the grooves on the floor of an ancient Maldavian temple are aesthetically intravenous; a vial of ancient powder is one character’s protective condom), and the director understands how this carelessness manifests itself in his “mixed” outsiders. Hellboy’s intro is on the cheesy side, but it adequately sets up the nature-nurture anguish that underlines every action Hellboy takes in the film. Born to do evil, an adorable Hellboy is rescued and raised by Professor Broom (John Hurt), founder of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (humorously located in Newark—of course), and essentially reprogrammed to combat the very thing he represents; that the filmmakers allow the character to finally choose what works best for him is a sign of their generosity and moral clarity. Behold del Toro’s startling use of color (namely during Broom’s monochrome funeral), which frequently emphasizes the isolation that grips Pearlman’s multi-dimensional über-Santa Claus. Because the colors in the film do not easily bleed into each other, this makes a kiss between Hellboy and the lily-white firestarter played by Selma Blair especially touching. Naturally, love conquers all, but it’s the ever-so-fleeting indentation of a burnt cross on Hellboy’s fire-resistant hand that connects him to the very will that keeps him alive.
- Guillermo del Toro
- Guillermo del Toro
- Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Jeffrey Tambor, Karel Roden, John Hurt, Corey Johnson, Doug Jones, Brian Caspe, James Babson
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