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Fri April 2, 2004
An existential comic book made into a movie!
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Hell hath no fury like an "X-Files" type of film faithfully adapting a revered comic book with the darkly existential theme of "choices." Director Guillermo del Toro's "Hellboy" playfully brings to life the story of a demon from hell conjured by WWII Nazis occultists under the supervision of the legendary Rasputin and freed by US troops to fight ghosts and monsters for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.
Mike Mignola created the hero after characters he loved in the works of Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft (among others) with a geeky devotion that includes quirky characters and pow-crash violence in the spirit of Jack Kirby's classics. The screenplay by del Toro is based largely on the first trade paperback collection of "Seed of Destruction" and its subsequent "Wake of the Devil" and "Right Hand of Doom."
I love the ironic world-weariness Ron Perlman brings to the titular hero his frustrating pursuit of pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). In between are the usual monstrous battles, wacky professor, and historical villain--just about every comic book clich? wrapped up in an energetic, visually rich experience. Covering the whole experience is a theme about choices: A man proves who he is not by heredity or chance but by the choices he makes. An existential comic book made into a movie!
How good is it? The director said, "We're finally seeing movies made for geeks, by geeks." Coleridge could have been thinking about "Hellboy" when he wrote, "And Fire from Hell reared his gigantic shape." Anyway, it is romantic filmmaking for this unromantic age.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.