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Hellboy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     "Hellboy" is one of those few comic-book-to-movie creations that doesn't lose the substance of its not-so-humble origins on the Dark Horse comic-book rack. Based on the popular "Hellboy" comic books, the movie is a rumbling steamroller of an action film. It is the youngest cousin of the recently enlarged family of comic-book adaptations which includes "The Hulk," "X-Men," "Spiderman," "Daredevil" and, of course, "Batman." There's a definite family resemblance: the government organization (secret, of course) which Hellboy (Ron Perlman) works for is the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, which has a decidedly X-Men feel, complete with government plots and a balding FBI agent with a prejudice against "freaks" (the paranormally gifted agents of the BPRD). The outsider theme rapidly develops in the way only a comic-book movie outsider theme can.

The movie's title character is a cigar-puffing, dryly humorous demon from the abyss with a big heart (along with red fire-proof skin, a tail, and filed-down horns.) Transported from the depths of hell to an island off the coast of Scotland by Nazis and Rasputin (the notorious mad monk of the family of the last czar), Hellboy is rescued by Allied troops and adopted by Professor Broom, who heads the BPRD.

Sixty years later, our story begins with Hellboy having been raised as a demon-fighting gunslinger for the BPRD, a group founded by President Roosevelt in retaliation for the Nazi occult threat. In his work, Hellboy is accompanied by fellow agents Abraham Sapien (Doug Jones), a psychic merman/amphibian; Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a fragile pyrotechnic who has trouble controlling her ability; and a new addition to their squad, the unremarkable but sweet Agent Myers.

Rasputin, who was killed by Allied troops, is resurrected and trouble starts to brew. Rasputin lets loose demons that multiply and keep the BPRD busy while he and his surviving Nazi buddies concoct a suitably devious plan which (naturally) involves the end of the world. But that isn't the only problem. Liz Sherman, having left the BPRD and entered an institution to control her powers, is persuaded by Agent Myers to come back. Hellboy is in love with her, but Liz is none too sure of her own feelings - she wishes she were normal, and dating a seven-foot-tall demon doesn't really fit that profile.

The movie has, among other things, a more complex version of the "X-Men" theme: being an outsider. Just as Hellboy is exiled, so Agent Myers will never really be part of the world inhabited by the BPRD. It is altogether a delightfully humorous, gorgeously detailed classic adventure, complete with dry wit, a throaty, thrilling soundtrack and surprisingly thoughtful ideas.

The whole experience is only marred by one thing. I suppose one must expect some murky spiritualism with a character named Hellboy, but even this does not prepare us for the often-bizarre, ritualistic superstition spouted right and left. It's half Lara Croft and half Buffy the vampire slayer, combining the most blatantly superstitious elements of medieval legend and scattered occultism. I don't consider it wrong to put religious themes in movies, but Christianity, in particular, is cheerfully twisted to fit the movie. The existence of God is ignored, but crosses and rosaries have spiritual significance. Hell is portrayed as an alternate dimension of space, while Hellboy himself is a demon somehow raised right who is therefore virtuous! Such manipulations are not merely offensive, but full of inconsistencies and incoherent philosophy - a great pity in an otherwise finely crafted film.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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