(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
The quest for inclusion has, since the introduction of The X-Men in the ‘60s, been the predominant theme in superhero comics, and it’s certainly at the forefront of Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy, a humanistic action extravaganza (based on Mike Mignola’s cult comic book) about misfit creatures fighting on the side of good. Hellboy (a hilarious Ron Perlman) is a demon brought to Earth during a Nazi plot to harness otherworldly forces. Taken in by a professor of the paranormal (John Hurt’s Dr. Bruttenholm), Hellboy – with his fire-retardant red-clay skin, sheared devil horns, and gargantuan stone hand – becomes a superstar for the FBI’s covert monster-squashing division, which also includes a rookie agent (Rupert Evans) and a centuries-old psychic amphibian named Abe Sapian (Doug Jones, with David Hyde Pierce’s voice). The film pits Hellboy against a resurrected Rasputin (Karel Roden) who’s intent on bringing about the apocalypse, but it’s the wise-cracking hero’s sarcasm, insecurities and unrequited love for moody firestarter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) that provides the story with its endearing emotional core. Like the crimson goliath, Liz hates that her innate powers make her a social pariah, and Hellboy’s sympathy for these alienated outcasts is matched by its belief in self-determination. Del Toro (Blade II, The Devil’s Backbone) sets much of the story in the dank subterranean tunnels and sewers that have become his directorial hallmark, and his CGI-enhanced effects have a colossal, crunching physicality. I can’t speak for Mignola’s comic, but Del Toro’s energized adventure has humor, excitement, and soul to burn.