Blast from the past

Del Toro’s Hellboy is the perfect superhero movie… and here’s why


Sure it sounds a little bit bold and pretentious to be said. Or better yet, to be named the best, because so many other movies can be worthy of that praise and that title. Captain America – Winter Soldier also comes to mind, and so does Iron Man and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.

But not to me. Yes they are perfectly casted, beautifully directed and amazingly written by some of the most talented people working in Hollywood (including the one and only Joss Whedon) and not to mention full of action to satisfy every pallet. But Hellboy came out in theaters several years before the MCU machinery and had a budget of only 66 million (about a third of every Marvel movie to date). So what makes Hellboy a master piece of film making? Well, before I explain my reasoning for that let me just mention that there is R rated reboot in the making. Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, was announced by the creator Mike Mignola on his personal Facebook page. The project is set to be directed by Neil Marshall and star David Harbour as the titular character but let me explain what makes 2004’s Hellboy a perfect superhero movie.

Image via Dark Horse Entertainment

Well first of all, Hellboy was placed in good hands. Written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, the Mexican auteur is big fan of the comic book and clearly knew what he was doing on both departments. Guillermo for years considered this film a dream project and had always wanted to cast Ron Perlman in the lead, but could never secure a budget or studio approval. After the massive success of Blade II (2002), del Toro was offered Blade: Trinity (2004) or Hellboy, and though he briefly considered trying to schedule both in, he chose Hellboy.

And not only he had creative control on both fields (directing/screenplay), he also had the blessing in choosing the right actor for the part of Hellboy. Apparently upon meeting to discuss the movie, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro decided to reveal to each other their choice for the lead role of Hellboy. They both said at the same time, Ron Perlman. How cool is that? Cause the studio wanted Vin Diesel in that role. Yeah… Let that sink in for a bit.

Image via Dark Horse Entertainment

Oh and speaking of roles… Not only Ron Perlman was fantastic as Hellboy so was everyone else. Doug Jones was brilliant as Abe Sapien, Selma Blair was awesome as Liz Sherman, Rupert Evans donned a super American accent as the young and naive FBI agent John Myers and the late John Hurt was just wonderful as Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy’s father.

Villains were awesome too don’t get me wrong, scary too. Although relatively unknown actors were selected for the villainous characters in Hellboy, they were brilliant and scary never the less. Karel Roden as Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, Bridget Hodson as Ilsa Haupstein and of course Ladislav Beran as Karl Ruprecht Kroenen were perfect evil balance to the heroes in this movie. Throw in some Nazi occultist mythology in the bag and you’ve got yourself a great subplot for a great superhero movie.

Image via Dark Horse Entertainment

I also loved the origin portrayal of many of the characters and their progression as the movie develops. For instance we see the saving of Hellboy by professor Bruttenholm in the prologue of the movie, but in present time we see the brief deterioration of their relationship. I mean the father and son are not speaking in the first 20 minutes of the movie. That is not to say that that relationship is not mended later on, but in the smaller rather insignificant scenes you’ll be able to find the true father son bond and respect. Take a look at the scene where Hellboy bashfully puts his cigar behind his back when he looks at his father. Like a teenager that is caught smoking for the first time by his parents. But if you think about it every relationship is developing nicely. Abe and Hellboy’s partnership on duty and off, Liz and Hellboy’s relationship is changed later on, and so is the love triangle between her, Hellboy and John.

Image via Dark Horse Entertainment

As the only woman in the male dominated cast, Selma was great as Liz Sherman. And I also loved how her character evolved as well. When we meet her at first she’s a broken woman, locked away in mental hospital but later on she transforms into a strong superhero character ready to fight evil just like the rest of the gang.

Oh, I cannot forget the practical and CGI effects. Yes they are subtle and masterly done and they don’t dominate the story. On contrary, they compliment the film in a visually stunning way. Trust me it brings chills to the back of your spine on the thought of seeing Kroenen’s naked body for the first time.

Image via Dark Horse Entertainment

Regardless for being probably the best superhero movie ever, Hellboy earned just 99 million dollars back in 2004. To be fair, the top 3 grossing movies of that year were Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban and Spiderman 2, so there was at least one superhero movie that earned the big bucks.

So if you have a chance to check Hellboy again, trust me again. You won’t regret it. Its sooooo good. The sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is also good, but only the first can be called the perfect superhero movie.

Cause Del Toro knew what the hell he was doing.



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  4. Beth Palladino 9 February, 2021 at 07:05 Reply

    Thank you for your beautiful review. I absolutely love this film. I think I must have watched it 50 times by now, if not more. I originally went to see it because I thought it would be a fun time. I never expected to practically have a religious experience. Point: Even though I absolutely loved John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm, I also loved Kevin Trainor as the younger Trevor Bruttenholm in the prologue — he even looked like the same character, just younger. I didn’t even know at first that it was based on a comic book. I just wanted to see it because I love Ron Perlman, who was pitch perfect in the title role. I ended up running out and buying all of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” comics and have been reading ever since. Someone once commented that I don’t look like the “Hellboy fan type” (I’m a librarian retired from a career in reference book publishing who now manages a health care practice). I wonder what a “Hellboy fan” is supposed to look like 😉 — All I know is that this truly is a perfect movie because it only gets better and better on repeat viewings.

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