A fine Monday and welcome one and all.
To coincide with the release of Pacific Rim, I decided to revisit some of Guillermo Del Toro's vibrant back catalogue of films. Not the creepy Chronos, or the beautiful Pan's Labyrinth, not the atmospheric The Devil's Backbone or the kinetic Blade 2.
No, this is a pair of films about a boy from hell.
Oh yes! Guillermo Del Toro's take on the charming Mike Mignola is itself a stunning piece of work. Easily one of the most underrated 'superhero' films out there, Hellboy is charming, thrilling and beautiful.
I don't know who suggested Ron Perlman for Hellboy (although Perlman and Del Toro have collaborated frequently in the past) but it was a master stroke of casting. His Hellboy looks fantastic, and Perlman brings a charm to a very unusual role, he's an alpha male who just so happen to not fit in. It's not a new idea but it's done extremely well considering Hellboy is a demon with filed down horns and hand made of stone.
And whilst the character of Hellboy dominates the screen, the acting of Doug Jones as Abe Sapien is also noteworthy. Again, the level of prosthetics and practical effects to achieve Abe Sapien is really impressive and Doug Jones manages to act through all the makeup to create another memorable character. The same level of kudos must go to the creatures who appears several times, both the CGI and practical effects are of a really high standard and the actual design of the monsters is memorable and inventive. And I hate to harp on about it but Karl Ruprecht Kroenen is a wonderfully designed, eerie looking character. The design of the characters are of a really high standard throughout.
Add the this the human characters, who are well written, touching and charming. I've rarely seen Selma Blair in something better than she is here and John Hurt is wonderful as the fatherly Professor Broom.
The story of the film isn't the strongest element to the film but it strings together the action scenes and allows Del Toro and his cinematographer, Guillermo Navarro to fill the screen with brilliant colours, gothic images and stunning vistas.
It's a wonderful looking film that really works because of the humour and charm present. It would have been impossible for such a film to work if it wasn't aware of how outlandish it was and embrace it willingly.
Trailer (complete with Dimmu Borgir music):
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
In terms of Del Toro's catalogue chronology, Hellboy 2 falls after completion of Pan's Labyrinth. It shows. Hellboy 2 is rich with the visual flair and outlandish creatures even more than the first film was.
Scenes like the secret market are full of the kind of creatures that inhabit the grotesque fairy tale of Pan's Labyrinth. Again, Hellboy is back and this film is on par with the first, I am happy to say.
The plot this time is far removed from the secret Nazi scientists of the first film and instead goes all out with Elves, Trolls and their unease peace with humans. The Golden Army of the film's title is a weapon whose trigger was split between the different races, a bit like The Lord Of The Rings.
Again Ron Perlman is just perfect as Hellboy. I couldn't imagine ANYONE doing as good a job as Perlman, especially when it comes to the humour and the emotional heart, which he delivers despite the heavy makeup.
The film is larger, more action packed and noisier but I found it lacked some of the heart found in the first film, most probably provided by John Hurt's character who is in this film for very little. Selma Blair's character of Liz has more to do this time round and she revels in it, getting some great lines and some great scenes. The villain of this film is much more emotionally involving than Rasputin but is generally less interesting than a world ending made Russian magician and his clockwork Nazi sadist.
The film continues with the surprisingly tender moments mixed in with action and whilst the final scenes actually involving the Golden Army is the most impressive (with a nice fixation of steampunk), it lacks the heart of an earlier scene involving an Elemental, which is sad, thrilling and utterly beautiful.
Scenes like that show why Del Toro can make these films work. He find an endearing humanity in very unlikely characters and in Hellboy, he has a very normal person who just so happens to be a demon who is supposed to bring about the end of the world. Again, Del Toro teams up with Guillermo Navarro and the film looks fantastic again, the greater roster of monsters doesn't diminish the film from the heart and the story.
All in all, a very cool, fun pair of superhero films. NOW HURRY UP AND MAKE HELLBOY 3!