Friday, October 01, 2010
“Look, Sammy, I'm not a very good shot but the Samaritan here uses really big bullets.”
Let’s start with something big, shall we? A confluence of monstrous, demonic and eldritch forces. Oh, and there’s Nazis. Here’s 2004’s Hellboy.
Back in WWII, a secret Nazi project attempted to make contact with…things that exist outside the purview of our reality in an attempt to get a leg up in the war. Things that words like “gibbous” and “squamous” apply to. The Allies put a stop to it, but something still came through the portal. That something was a little red baby that was taken in by a guy named Dr. Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (played in the modern day by John Hurt)
Fast forward to the modern day and there are countless rumors circulating of a secret government department that deals with all manner of monsters and abominations. Agent John Meyers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to this secretive Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) where he meets the staff, including telepathic fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones & voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and our hero, a big red stogie chomping demon with a giant stone right hand who goes by the name of Hellboy (Ron Perlman under a hell of a lot of makeup). Hellboy ages differently than humans, so by the modern day, he’s only just into his twenties and kind of has the personality of a High School senior. He’s even pining after his ex girlfriend, the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) who once worked for the Bureau but quit. It also doesn’t help that Hellboy isn’t exactly keen on staying in the shadows, much to the chagrin of the high ranking Agent Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor).
Myers’ job is simple: babysit Hellboy and kind of steer him in a direction that is more…responsible. Of course, this wouldn’t be a comic book movie without villains to smash in the face, which is provided by the resurrection of the guy who brought Hellboy into the world: Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden). Now, the Mad Monk’s gone through some…changes since he teamed up with the Nazis back in WWII and is trying to summon those same eldritch horrors with the help of the still young and beautiful Ilsa Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and the crazy awesome clockwork powered, gas mask wearing Nazi ninja Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) and the recently released demon Sammael, the “hound of resurrection.”
You bet your ass its going to be a bumpy ride.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and cinematography by Guillermo Navarro. Double Guillermos, all the way. The movie has an energetic pace and some really slick visuals thanks to del Toro’s commitment to using as many practical effects as possible. CGI is kept to a minimum and the action scenes where Hellboy and Sammael trade blows are a hell of a lot of fun. Color is also used well, with the bulk of the movie taking place at night, so the cool nocturnal tones are contrasted nicely with our hero’s bright red skin.
Original comic book by Mike Mignola and adapted for the screen by Guillermo del Toro and Peter Briggs. Mignola also worked with del Toro extensively on the adaptation. The result is an adaptation that is respectful to the source material, but also unafraid to go off onto its own direction. Storywise, it is a bit standard issue with the plot points (gang of misfits have to save the world from unspeakable evil), but the real charm comes from the characters NOT being standard issue. The hero is a devil who saws his horns off and carries a crucifix, his best buddy is a telepathic fish man, his girlfriend can make fire and the bad guy is Rasputin himself trying to summon a Lovecraftian Horror. It’s a great comic book adaptation, and it’s a great urban fantasy.
The original score by Marco Beltrami is moody, atmospheric and creepy, soaring to big action cues at appropriate times. Then its supplemented by some good songs by Tom Waits, Al Green and Pete Yorn.
Hellboy is a great way to kick off this year’s Octoverride, because Halloween isn’t just about being scary. It’s about being creepy and weird and mysterious and often hilarious. Last year I think I called the Octoverride a “Cavalcade of Weird” and I’m sticking to it.