DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
May Contain Spoilers!
2004 was at the height of the superhero revolution. From 2000 with X-Men, there was a string of successful films, with Marvel leading the way, taking the genre to stratospheric levels. X-Men 2 raised they bar again, proving that the genre appealed to more than just a fanboy audience, but it was Spider-man in 2002 which broke all the records. Hulk in 2003, underrated but still, with Ang Lee at the helm, showed a move forward, along with Bryan Singer, in the calabar of director (Sam Raimi not withstanding).
In 2005, DC would break back with Batman Begins, and the following year with Superman Returns, but in 2004, The Dark Knight trilogy was far away and the idea of Guillermo del Toro applying his distinct vision to a comic book film was just as exiting.
On the surface, this is not what you would expect from a comic book movie unless you were already familiar with sub-genre and I must admit that on my first viewing back in 2005, this was not really my cup of tea. The style was certainly present as was the story. Quite intricate, without being particularly complex, this bares a resemblance to Captain America in the sense that WW2 plays a significant role in his creation.
Ron Pearlman takes on the role excellently, combining brute force with a solid emotional centre as he fixates on his lost love whilst going out on missions to beat the crap out of demons and supernatural goons etc… And this is where del Toro comes into his own.
The supernatural element opens up the stylistic possibilities, allowing him and his team to construct elaborate sets, create surreal characters and take the genre into a serious, yet playful direction. Hellboy is cool, and Pearlman, who whilst not underrated as I believe that he is well-regarded, is not accepted widely enough for his talents. His is possibly one of the most likeable, if not loveable, hard-cases out there.
Suited to this role perfectly, he is the hell-hound with a heart of gold. But even though Hellboy is the lead character, this is in many way an ensemble with a number supporting roles, most of which are enjoyable if not a little camp. But remember that this is a comic book, it’s not going for the same tone as Nolan’s Dark Knight or Donner’s Superman, this is a film which takes itself seriously but does with a wry smile. And Pearlman helps to deliver this perfectly.
On repeat viewings the film has obviously grown on me and its significance to the 2000’s comic book movie revolution should not be underestimated.