If all you saw of Hellboy was the trailer or the poster, you would think it was a big dumb adventure movie. However, it has all of the depth and nuance that we expect from the films of Guillermo del Toro.
The introduction begins with the cinematic, raspy voice of John Hurt. The following scene has a really high stakes atmosphere. The American army attempt to stop the opening of a portal to another dimension.
The sequence is accompanied by thrashing rain; flashing lightning and a soaring soundtrack. You would be hard pushed to find theatricality like it in another comicbook movie.
A major plot point is the relationship between Liz and Hellboy. As well as his jealously of Agent Myers, who he believes is moving in on her. Although he is a monster slaying hero, Hellboy is like a vulnerable child around Liz. He is made to feel insecure when Liz and Myers are spending time together.
She just wants to be friends with Myers though because he is one of the first people to see her as ‘normal’, not a monster. We see her in an institution, in the nightmare before she burns the place down, she is being bullied as a child. People obstracise her, making her put up walls.
Liz is viewed as a danger to others. This is symbolised by the trees wrapped in plastics in the institution’s gardens. Organic life is being protected, paralleling the protection of society from her destructive powers.
The image of Liz as a danger to others is what makes her push Hellboy away. Another reason is that he outwardly represents the supernatural world that she wants to escape.
By the end of the movie, she learns that she can be with Hellboy because she accepts her role in the supernatural world. Not only that, she does not have to be scared of killing him because he is fire proof. They are fated to be together.
Hellboy is heavily influenced by the work of H.P Lovecraft. The theme of eternal forces from the work of Lovecraft really comes through. Technology and the occult go hand in hand. The same mix of clockwork and futuristic tech that appears in the modern era is present in World War 2.
The movie’s flexible physics give it a pulpy feel. For example: Hellboy’s floaty kung-fu movie jump. The writing though is really deep. Hellboy is the best of both worlds as it is like a comicbook brought to life. However, it is rich with nuance.