Years before he won an Oscar for The Shape of Water, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro adapted Mike Mignola’s graphic novel series, Hellboy, to the big screen. It became a modest box-office success when it hit theaters in 2004. Although it didn’t break any new ground in the superhero genre, it contains enough humor, fantastic visuals, and historical intrigue to outweigh its flaws.
Ron Perlman hits it out of the park as the title character, a demon who came out of a paranormal portal built by the Nazis during World War II to free the “Seven Gods of Chaos” to defeat the Allies. However, things don’t go according to plan as the Allies defeat the Nazis. Dr. Trevor Broom (the late John Hurt) adopts the creature and, eventually, training him to be an agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) to secretly protect the world from paranormal threats, with the help of a psychic half-amphibian/half-human Dr. Abe Sapien (Doug Jones; voiced by David Hyde Pierce), John Myers (Rupert Evans), and Dr. Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). While a demanding role (considering the red make-up), Perlman plays Hellboy as a selfish yet charismatic creature who smokes cigars, loves Baby Ruth candy, and has a soft spot for cats (similar to Vito Corleone from The Godfather).
There is plenty of action in this movie, particularly one exhilarating scene leading to a subway station. For the most part, the movie works, due to del Toro’s sensitive directing and screenplay (though ridden with holes), the energy, the atmosphere, and the great characters.