Available to stream on Netflix
The greatest strength of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy is that it isn’t afraid to be ridiculous. In that way it stays faithful to the tone and atmosphere of the comics. If you’re questioning human logic or the laws of physics while experiencing a comic book, you’re doing it wrong. Hellboy feels like a comic book, it looks like a comic book, and it requires the suspension of disbelief of a comic book.
This particular entry in the Hellboy story begins during World War II, as a portal to hell is opened and the virtually immortal villain Grigori Rasputin is revealed. Then a small, ape-like demon makes his way through the portal, is discovered by a British scientist and taken in as his son. With a prologue like this we immediately know this is going to be a fantastic ride, filled with bizarre creatures and stretches to our imagination.
The story introduces strange new characters at every turn. First Hellboy, with his oversized mega fist, ground down horns, and insatiable appetite for Baby Ruths. There’s also Abe Sapien, an aquatic humanoid who abhors violence, can read minds, and survives on a diet of rotten eggs. And those are just the good guys. The bad guys include the aforementioned Rasputin, who literally has a god living inside him, and Kroenen, a 106-year-old, self-mutilating Nazi assassin who has dust for blood. Tell me these descriptions don’t get your inner nerd going.
One of the strengths of the characters in this movie is in what they wear. Costume designer Wendy Partridge creates an aesthetic with all the outlandish flair necessary for a story like this. Steampunk goggles, Nazi-inspired body armor, enormous trench coats, cool metal masks, and lots and lots of leather. As a comic book fan myself, I was very impressed with how faithful the costumes are to the source material. Partridge managed to capture the look of the comic art without making it look overly cheesy.
Everything in a movie contributes to its overall atmosphere–the editing, the sound design, the make-up, the coloring…every little thing. In Hellboy the costuming does more than its fair share of transporting us into this wild story. It’s cool and crazy and it accentuates the peculiarities of each individual character.