Hellboy II (Del Toro ,2008)

Hellboy II

Hell Boy!

Comics have suffered at the hands of films. I say this not as a comic book geek or a film snob of any pedigree, but as someone evaluating the changes comic books have had to endure from being converted to screenplays at the hands of angsty directors with a dramatic education , cinematographers intent on exploring the medium more than the subject and graphic illustrators that treat comic book panels like storyboards to be converted to cinema rather than comic books to be filmed as comics.

What’s the difference? A comic’s narrative flows jerkily. Panel by panel. The illustration is expressionist It’s bound by no realist logic of time and space. Its character’s motivations make sense to the elderly even as they do to the eight year old. A comic is like a satyajit ray comedy. Goofy Weighty dead serious at the same time. Flash Gordon was saving the world but the illustrator took the time to give him accessories that made every high school kid wonder what that metal strap on his arm is meant to do. The possibilities only limited by the imagination. Comics set people free like that. The nearest thing to a comic book is a book cover illustration of a pulp novel, but we’ll go there some other time.

Superhero Family Values

This is about Guillermo del Toro ‘s Hellboy II. A mere comic book epic(Mike Mignola) of a politically incorrect red giant(Ron Perlman) with the devils horns, broken horns, living in a “men in black world” with his girlfriend, the searing white Liz Sherman(An endearing cameo by Selma Blair)who combusts into angry flames at will ; rises to mythical and touching humanity from the emotional frailties of the heroes and some classic computer aided villainy that never crosses into the brooding from plain evilness.

Vulnerable Red

The remarkable thing about the film is its proportions. Del Toro gets it just right. You discover from curious surprise that the graphics are as sophisticated as the scene demands(the tiny creatures in the beginning are almost hand illustrated and the awesome cool golden army marches like a drumming band in a competition and is as sophisticated drawn as the best.) you realize that there is genuine warmth between Perlman and Blair, as if toro was talking about another time when a powerful and different man mated emotionally with a uber cool hippie chick in some alternate inner city. Even the hamfisted comedy between Abe Sapien(in one of Doug Jones’ three roles in the film) and Princes Nuala is just right , like Dad’s story of how he hooked up with mom includes loving details of how all his geeky wingmen found girls that night.

Del Toro and Friend

The Mexican Del Toro is no stranger to comics on one hand(Hellboy is his staple, having created three feature length versions of the comic) and fantasy science fiction Mythology on the other (Blade, Pan’s Labyrinth ) . This time it is cast in monolithic stone. The certain brush stokes of a master story painter show a keen understanding of the power and limitations of comic book mythology. He know that when a page is turned, the inner child must be set free from the demons in the panels of the last page. You get the feeling Toro is making the movie for himself first. The first fan of Hellboy II is its director. How often have filmmakers missed this forest for computer generated trees!

It’s even better than that!

HellBoy II then is a ride into comic book heaven Illustrated with calibrated comic book skill and superhuman colors, in where Ugly superheroes play epic games of mythical skill with 21st century technology and with emotional full stops after each illustrated panel.

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About rameshram

Name : Ramesh Ram... Email Address : Cdrakenc@gmail.com (don't even ask) Blog: (never updated) http://ramesh.journalspace.com Height/ Weight: 6'1 175 (varies between 160 and 185) Color of hair/ eyes black/ brown Bald? Nope (not yet, but give me 20 years.) Interests: Film (Bollywood/international indie), Travel (Germany/Japan/Central America/Sout/east/west Asia/ Northern Africa), Gizmo geek, Clubbing... What do I like in a good movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. What do I like in a bad movie?: Women, Music, Auters, Special effects, Style. Favorite Critic: International: Bazin Domestic: J Hobermann Indian : me. (noone else comes close ...India or here..) Best quality: Humility. Outspokenness. Warmth Worst quality: Intolerence Favorite color : Yellow Black Blue Favorite Perfume : men: Grey Flannel(Geoffery Beene) Women: Celine dion: Obsession Boxers / briefs : Boxers Did I inhale: And how! Author: Marquiz, Rushdie, Murakami, Jong Last Book: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt Music : Patricia Kass, Alejandro Sanz,Nina Simone, Amir Diab Sports person: uh..me? What am I usually in : White briefs and tees. Chianti or Burgandy: Chianti Food: French Japanese(street/fast food). Saw and liked: No Country for old men, Lust Caution Saw and disliked: Nishabd Didnt see: Aaja Nach le. Call me: Write me first.
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6 Responses to Hellboy II (Del Toro ,2008)

  1. David C says:

    You’re onto something here writing about the different narrative tools available to comics and movies. Kevin Smith is only the most recent pundit to claim that we’re entering a golden age of superhero films because special effects technology has finally caught up with the graphic freedom of comics–and he of all people should have put a little more thought into the question of how smoothly the stuff can be translated.

    “Watchmen” might be a good test case. Alan Moore says he designed it to do things in storytelling that only comics can do; that it should never have been made into a movie in the first place. An obvious set up for some critic to make a close study of how the story plays in each medium.

    Meanwhile: I was a comics geek once upon a time (can’t afford it anymore!) and some of the best writing on the mechanics and aesthetics of the mediumn was written by this guy: http://www.scottmccloud.com/

  2. rameshram says:

    There’s what people promise, and then there’s what the film delivers.

    My point is that Del toro got it right, and that’s a rare comic book film.

  3. GoJoe says:

    Nice to see an enthusastic review here on Your Journal!

  4. rameshram says:

    Thanks Joey

  5. Karigai says:

    These are some wonderful wonderful thoughts on one of my favorite superhero films. (I musta been exercising an unusual amount of selfcontrol in not looking this up at once, when you alerted us to it in May, over at “Unspecial Effects”.)

    I used to be a comic books freak (not geek) growing up; had hundreds of spurious Indian editions of DC comics, tintin, etc (that I got from the paper kadakaaran, over the years, in exchange for hundreds of empty aavin milk packets and IE newspapers my gray BSA SLR painstakingly lugged for me, like a good mule) spilling out of my closet until one fine day, dad, without so much as asking me if he could, donated it all to Sivananda ashram in Tbm (well, at least some deserving kids got to have what I’d much enjoyed, over and over and over). The only comics I read now are ones in The Paper and oh my, they somethin else. 😉

    Coming back to what you wrote, I especially love this part: “you realize that there is genuine warmth between Perlman and Blair, as if toro was talking about another time when a powerful and different man mated emotionally with a uber cool hippie chick in some alternate inner city.”

    Makes me want to share this exchange leading up to the hero introduction scene: (no, no, not recollecting from memory; what kind of a freak do u think i am? lol. i just Googled the script.)

    (Manning and Abe enter the secured facility and walk toward hellboy’s room)

    MANNING: How are things between him and Liz?

    ABE: Oh, you know. The usual. Since they moved in together — Good days and bad.

    On cue, the concrete wall explodes!! A massive BALL OF FIRE swings the final steel door open, almost tearing it off its hinges.

    ABE (CONT’D): Then again, there are the really bad days!

    Manning and Abe cower behind a pillar. Once the explosion dies away — Hellboy’s revealed, lying on the floor, his back smoking and in flames.

    HELLBOY’S VOICE (yelling at Liz): Well — I’m not afraid of you! You hear??

    Abe and Manning peek inside…

    HELLBOY’S ROOM

    HB [leaden, like the pencil? My own mental note…this is not from script!!] stumbles around the rubble, wreathed in smoke. He holds a bunch of blackened LPs and 8-track cassettes.

    HELLBOY (yelling at Liz): Look — I have one rule! One — “Don’t touch my stuff”

    Liz appears, shimmering in a halo of blue flame.

    HB pulls a few LP albums out of the garbage bin.

    LIZ: You have the same album on CD, LP and an 8 track — An 8 track!!!

    HELLBOY: You can’t listen to Al Green on a CD!! You just can’t!! Oh, and 8 track was the way to go — one day mankind will realize its mistake.

    LIZ: What about me? I need some space! Not much, but just enough to find …to find…my toothbrush.

    She flares up, losing control…

    HELLBOY: Is that what this is about?? Your toothbrush’s right there, behind you.

    (Liz turns)

    There…there…with the cat food!! Wrinkling her nose in disgust, Liz plucks a toothbrush from a heap of spilled cat kibble.

    LIZ: Damn it, Red — there’s no room for me here. You can’t just act like —

    Suddenly, the alarm sounds. Hellboy is elated.

    HELLBOY: Oh, heavenly bells are ringing!

    **************
    I agree (though I’m no expert in these matters (unless mildly…ok ok wildly… emotional counts), Del toro couldn’t have got it more right.

    • karigai says:

      ps: Since we are talking “Superhero Family Values” thought I’d share a tidbit about Hancock, though that’s not a comic-book sourced superhero flick (and is way more Hollywoodized, treatment-wise). One (or maybe the only) thing that movie got right was the “lovers’ tiff” angle, with Will Smith and Charlize Theron having at each other in plain view of her “adopted” husband… and whoa, what collateral damage!!

      My heart at first went out to Theron — who had to go on living the normal life, hiding her superhero-ness from her husband, whereas Will could bum around and just be himself — though my allegiance shifted toward the end, when it becomes obvious that distance is the ONLY thing that can keep them together.

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