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From Under a Rock: Hellboy

October 15, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under a Rock: Hellboy  


This week’s column is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’m a huge fan of this movie’s sequel, but haven’t watched this one in years. But, much like Spider-Man, Batman Begins and Donkey Kong Country, having a better sequel doesn’t mean you should skip the original.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael turned Aaron’s head around to see The Exorcist. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock for Hellboy.

Released: April 2nd, 2004
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
Rupert Evans as John Thaddeus Myers
Doug Jones/David Hyde Pierce as Abe Sapien

Aaron Hubbard: I know, I know. Big shock, Aaron loves a comic book movie. But to be honest, Hellboy speaks less to the comic book nerd in me and more to my love of old horror classics like Frankenstein and The Mummy. And since that genre has been in the gutter for years, Hellboy just sticks out even more.

Michael Ornelas: And my inclination for loving this movie is largely due to the visual stylings of Guillermo Del Toro. That man just can’t help but create some of the most unique and interestingly designed characters in film history. This was a treat for that reason, and I’m sure it won’t be the first time this column that I speak about it.
Making “Impossible” Work
Aaron: Something that always annoys me is when people claim that something is “unfilmable”. That something is too weird to market or too strange to make it look polished. This line of thought stifles creativity and it’s the main reason I love Guillermo del Toro. While the Zack Snyders and Michael Bays of the world struggle to do anything worthwhile with A-list characters, del Toro took a niché Dark Horse comic and made it wonderful. It gave him the clout to make bigger, more original works like Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim, and we’re really lucky to have someone with his vision making movies today.

Michael: Well I don’t believe anything is “unfilmable” but there are certainly challenges when adapting certain material. It’s hard for me to speak to the source material here, as I haven’t read it or even seen it before…but I can tell you that this film had a unique tone that felt very “comic book”-ish, and most of the shots felt composed to resemble what a comic book’s frame may look like. The fact that it invoked that feeling for me while watching already speaks to how well this movie brought its source material to life. There were lots of fun effects-driven moments (such as Hellboy’s shackles breaking off, or being tossed backwards, yet somehow upwards, to smash through a window pane and then slide back into a wall in what was a clearly somewhat-practical effect), and added to this unique aesthetic. Since that last sentence was insane, just watch this clip to know what I’m referencing.

Aaron: What really stands out for is the makeup for Hellboy and Abe Sapian. I’m so relieved these two aren’t CGI, as it would be so distracting. The costumes for these characters are simply amazing and feel as real as this stuff can get. But I also have to credit the CGI in this. Not all of it works, but compare it to say, Revenge of the Sith and it’s astounding how much better this holds up.
Michael: Sometimes I see movies to make me think. Sometimes I see movies to be scared. I have all sorts of emotions I like to feel at the hands of powerful cinema, but at the end of the day, I think movies are supposed to be fun. This movie is fun. It is just a romp n’ stomp adventure with likable, badass heroes fulfilling their destinies. There was not a single good guy in this movie that I didn’t like or feel for. There was not a single bad guy in this movie that I thought was above getting their comeuppance. There was also Jeffrey Tambor’s character who was exactly what he was supposed to be as well (a wet blanket). This whole experience knew exactly what it wanted to be and pulled it off exceptionally well, and I, for one, had a blast watching it.

Aaron: My one flaw with this movie is that I think its narrative is a bit too broad and it feels like it’s straining to make its narrative coherent. But this movie gets so much right; the action is exciting, the dialogue is memorable and snappy, the costume and monster design is phenomenal. And there’s so many little things, like Hellboy saving kittens or talking with a kid about his relationship issues, or the gloriously entertaining skeleton. This movie constantly gives us stuff to enjoy.

Michael: Oh my goodness, the skeleton!! This movie was just a blast, front to back. I can’t think of a single five minute span in this movie that went without providing a moment that I genuinely enjoyed. See, this is what I want from movies! Fun! It’s not quite the “fun” highlight that something like The Cabin in the Woods is to me, but I still loved it. I feel like there’s less of a point in this section and more and excuse for me to just gush over the movie watching experience I just had.
The Right Man For The Job
Aaron: Hellboy could not have worked without Ron Perlman. And no, not just because Ron plays the hell out of the role, but because he’s one of the few people who could pull this off. Hellboy could only really look good as prosthetics and makeup, and very few actors are willing to obscure themselves to this degree. But Perlman was best known for playing a role in makeup in TV’s Beauty and the Beast; he had the skill and the willingness to pull this role off and it’s paid off in a big way for him and for this movie.

Michael: Seeing as I was 16 years old when this movie came out, and I hadn’t had really any exposure to Perlman’s previous works, this was the first thing I ever knew him as, despite not seeing the movie until this week. I know him better as Clay Morrow in Sons of Anarchy, but his reputation as Hellboy had already sunk in with me. After seeing this movie while already being well-acquainted with Sons, I can safely say that there was no better choice than Perlman. He committed to playing this part and brought his specific brand of charm to the character, which gave him life. I’m already primed to see the sequel; that’s how much I enjoyed this.

Aaron: Perlman as Hellboy is, for me anyway, as perfect a pairing as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark or Christopher Reeve as Superman. All three are good or great actors, but there’s an intangible quality to them that makes them truly perfect for those characters. I can’t blame Perlman for wanting Hellboy 3 to happen; he just always seems like he’s having a blast playing him.

Aaron: There is nobody in Hollywood who “gets” movies like this the way del Toro does. When one looks at his resume, you consistently see films in “B Movie” genres: fantasy, horror, comic books, giant robots fighting giant monsters. Del Toro makes this stuff look sleek and polished and amazing, but also knows how to keep and elevate the charm that makes those movies work.


Michael: It’s not like this movie was perfect or a masterpiece or anything, but I really have a hard time finding much to fault it on. It was fun, well directed, solidly acted, perfectly cast, and visually pleasing. I really don’t have anything to nitpick. It knew what it was and it delivered.


Aaron: What’s amazing is that the sequel doesn’t lose a beat. For just two films, this series has a rich mythology and is always fresh.

Michael: I can’t wait. By the time this column goes up, I’ll probably have already watched it, if not watching it simultaneously.

What is your favorite Guillermo del Toro movie?

Next week:

Michael: I saw this movie for the first time a couple years ago and was really impressed with how well the creep factor holds up despite how relatively ancient this movie is. It is very reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, but was actually in development before that show even hit airwaves.
Aaron: I know nothing about this, but classic horror films are right up my alley. I am looking forward to seeing it.

Michael: With a 1960 release year, this is about as early as you can get in horror without looking to the Universal Classic Monsters.

Why do I keep picking movies about creepy kids this month?

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Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy

Michael’s Still Doing His Web Series!
Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews donuts! Everybody loves donuts, right? Well Michael is forced to love donuts a little too much….

Aaron Still Writes About Comics!
This week, my exhaustive countdown of DC’s 52 best heroes continues. From Alan Scott and Doctor Fate to Jaime Reyes and Batwoman, DC’s long history is celebrated in this month long series.

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Hellboy may be a comic book movie, but it's unlike any other you'll see. Del Toro brings style and polish to genre films like nobody else. The result is a consistently entertaining, well-acted and astonishingly well-realized film. Ron Perlman's performance is also worth seeing on its own merit.