It seems like every other movie released has a comic book as inspiration. A message board on comics has a thread that asks the question: “Are there too many comic-based movies?” That looks to be a moot point; movies based on comics are here to stay.
“Hellboy” is based on the Dark Horse comic created by Mike Mignola. The origin of the character Hellboy goes back to World War II and Hitler’s obsession with the occult. Hellboy is a demon that is brought into this world from the underworld by Rasputin (of Russian history), who is working with the Nazis. The plot is foiled by the Allied forces, which come and break up the ritual that brings Hellboy into this world.
When Hellboy arrives, he is a small, demonic-looking creature who is adopted by Dr. Bruttenholm (John Hurt), an Allied operative and an expert on the occult. The movie moves forward to the present day with Hellboy (Ron Perlman) being a part of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development. The BPRD is described as the people who “go bump” back to those creatures that go bump in the night.
Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a fish-man with extraordinary mental skills, and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), who has pyro-kinetic abilities, join Hellboy at the BPRD.
The movie story centers on the return of Rasputin, who has come to reclaim Hellboy. Hellboy holds the key to a door that will make the underworld come and dominate this world. There are all types of monsters that Hellboy and his cohorts have to battle, and there is even a showdown with Rasputin.
It is a roller-coaster ride of a movie, with a subplot of political intrigue. Jeffery Tambor plays an FBI agent working through the media to dispel the belief that there are creatures loose in the world. His job is to cover up any evidence that Hellboy or the BPRD exists.
“Hellboy” presents the battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. This world is much like the world of the New Testament: demon filled. These demons can easily overtake a person, so precautions must be taken—like using a rosary or some holy artifact to ward off the evil powers.
“Hellboy” reminds one of the “Indiana Jones” series. Many of the same themes are followed: supernatural evil, ancient artifacts, knowledge of ancient ways.
Ron Perlman gives a wonderful performance as Hellboy. Hellboy may be over 60 years old, but he acts like he is in his early 20s. Perlman nails this cigar-smoking, cat-loving demon, and his wit and deadpan delivery help lighten considerably a dark movie.
It’s hard to find fault with “Hellboy.” It’s not a blockbuster, like “Spider-Man.” The reason for this may lie in the fact that Spider-Man is so well known, whereas Hellboy is new to most people. That lack of familiarity may account for the movie not doing as well as some other comic-inspired movies.
But that’s alright. “Hellboy” brings a twisted wit that gives all who venture into the darkness of the theater the opportunity to meet another hero out of the pages of a comic. “Hellboy” brings a smile to the face, even as it charges the eyes with terror.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and frightening images.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Writers: Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Briggs
Cast: Hellboy: Ron Perlman; Liz Sherman: Selma Blair; Prof. Bruttenholm: John Hurt; Tom Manning: Jeffrey Tambor; John Meyers: Rupert Evans; Grigori Rasputin: Karel Roden; Agent Clay: Corey Johnson; “Abe” Sapien: Doug Jones; Ilsa: Bridget Hodson.
The movie’s Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.