Sometimes we view films with such high regard that when we view them again later, we realize we may have just been buying into the hype a little too much at the time and that the film really isn’t as good as we thought. Hellboy, thankfully, is NOT one of those movies. A friend of mine showed me the film for the first time not long after it had arrived on DVD. I wasn’t very familiar with the character, but knew enough to know I was watching a movie that was based on a comic book. I enjoyed the film but didn’t think about it anymore after that. Then while at college another friend told me “If you enjoyed it before, you’re going to love the Director’s Cut.” Now as a film student, I knew that Director’s Cut usually meant a whole whopping 26 seconds of footage was added that was left on the cutting room floor, and usually for good reason. Hellboy, again, would prove to be different in a good way.
The directors adds several scenes back in that expand on the relationships between the characters, Professor Broom’s cancer, and the “God” living inside Rasputin. Great right? More scenes, more background, how can you beat it? Oh, by doing what all fanboys love and adding in the deleted scenes, commentaries by director Guillermo Del Toro as well as a video commentary with the cast. Then you can show us a two and a half hour documentary on the entire process of making the film from writing to editing. Never before have I seen a documentary that so fully covers so many film making topics in one spot and not once leaves me bored or wondering “is this over yet?” The Director’s Cut is without a doubt worth every penny, and if you are picking it up on Blu Ray, you ARE getting the Director’s Cut.
The film itself holds up to the test of time in both its story and effects. The combination of practical makeup, costumes and action effects along with the CGI effects can at times be so seamless you never notice the transitions back and forth between the two. The fights between Hellboy and Sammael for example often go back and forth between CG characters fighting as they fall down huge passageways until the crash land, only to pick up between two actors in costume. In a bad film, you notice it right away, but at times you can’t tell if they are real or CG, with Sammael especially. This isn’t just a testament to the skill of those behind the CG but to the skill of those that made the Sammael suit as well.
The film still continues to make me laugh and sit on the edge of my seat during action sequences like the first time I saw it. Hellboy accomplishes what many comic book films these days fail at, which is making you leave the theater happy with what you’ve seen. What is truly surprising about this is that while many hardcore geeks HATE when filmmakers change the story from their comic book roots, is that most of the GREAT comic book films are greatly changed. Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is drastically different in many ways from the comic book series as far as the characters go. Hellboy is very much the same in that many characters that are important in the film series have relatively small roles in the comic, especially Prof. Broom. What does carry over from the comic however is the tone of the series. Hellboy is a dark story with a sense of humor, the character himself being the epitome of the “Every Man/Working Man” stereotype who does his job, goes home and enjoys a beer in front of the TV. Except he looks like the devil.
Guillermo Del Toro’s interpretation would go on the make millions worldwide and be praised by critics and fans alike. It would spawn the 2008 sequel “Hellboy and the Golden Army” that many fans would hope would lead to a third film to make a complete trilogy. Though with recent news, most people associated with the project have admitted that a third film is unlikely due to the busy schedules of both Del Toro and Ron Perlman. There were even rumors of a falling out between Del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola after Del Toro “spoiled” the death of Hellboy for fans apparently. Does never really mean never? Who knows until it’s official. I’m holding out for Hellboy 3.