In a world defined by superhero sequels and prequels and whatnot, it’s a tragedy that Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy trilogy will be forever incomplete. Based on Mike Mignola’s Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, Del Toro’s take on the character falls just short of the canon of comic book adaptations, not quite leaving the cultural mark as Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) and, to my own regret, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008), but nonetheless helped pave the way for the genre’s dominance in the 21st century. And it just might be the best looking superhero movie ever made.
In Hellboy, as in many of Del Toro’s films, the world is composed of manichean choices: ones that can either make you a hero or a monster. The monsters are the sinners; the heroes, the saints. The name “Hellboy,” then, is an inaptronym that Ron Perlman, as the titular character, has the burden to prove ironic. When Hellboy makes the wrong moral decision, a sentimental cross necklace burns his already devilish red skin—a cross he was able to hold just fine moments before. His origin story (which is a blessedly short five minutes) even involves an incomplete Nazi experiment to bring about the end of apocalypse—any origin that connects one’s supposed teleology with the Nazis is automatically a morally suspect origin. How does one de-couple from such disreputable social stains? Can one be a hero without a wanting crowd to be heroic before?
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