It has somehow gotten out that I enjoyed the movie Hellboy. Now being that I have, from time to time, been known to share an opinion of, perhaps, less that moderate restraint concerning the fact that most people writing and making movies are first class idiots, intellectual vagabonds, yappy lapdogs in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, weak-minded manipulables sporting the malleable souls of greedy-hearted reprobates with guilt-laden consciences, I feel the need to justify my appreciation of Hellboy.
In other words, people keep giving me a hard time for having gone to see Hellboy, let alone for having enjoyed, and even recommended it. There are, of course, two responses to people laughing at you. The first is to slink off in shame and disgrace, never to utter the name of the lovable, big-fisted, spawn of Satan again. The second is called, "swallowing the reductio." This is my attempt to get my jaw to hinge wide enough to get this particular reductio down the hatch, where the digestive juices of my lack of common sense can get to work, and you, the faithful reader, can begin to forget this particular review.
So here we are. Hellboy, written and directed by Guillermor Del Toro, based upon the comic of the same name created by Mike Minola.
Hellboy is the classic tale of the spawn of Satan being orphaned, adopted by a Christian Father, who becomes the undoing of the Hitler's chicaneries. Classic. The tale told a thousand times, to generations of innocent children needing bedtime . . . Wait. No. Nevermind. It isn't really actually the kind of story that you normally tell to children. . . . But it is the kind of story that needs to be told.
So here's the thing. It's a bit scary, and there are a few monsters. Nothing half as scary as the salt water crocodile, or the Giant Salamanders that live in the Japanese mountains. Just Hell-hounds, and evil sand-filled robot assassin scary. Sci-fi comic book action movie stuff. But it is a fairly wholesome, with a few crass words here and there. Check one of those helpful christian websites that counts out the obscenities and use discretion, It is rated PG-13, so take that into account.
The story is fairly straight forward. Hitler attempts to co-opt the dark arts to the cause of the Reich, but American soldiers foil his plot by destroying the machine that created a portal to the underworld.
But guess what, the offspring of the Devil, you know, the beast who is supposed to bring in the Apocalypse, well, he is a new born who just happens to be out wandering, and he accidentally slipped through the portal. One of the men is a Christian, so he adopts the spawn of Satan and raises the little guy as his own son.
The problem is, he is a huge, red, Demonic looking monster, horns, tail, and all, that has one overlarge adamantine stone hand. This setup is really wonderful. There are so many places that you could go from here.
And the makers of this fine story go the most obviously appealing route in a society drenched with fatherlessness. Hellboy is put in a situation of having to decide between the faith of his biological father (if you can call it biology) and the faith of his adopted father.
I am torn on whether to go the route of spoiling such a wonderful set up, but then again, that is what I do. Here's the warning, and warnings, like bow-ties, are cool. Spoilers.
The movie begins with the question, “What is it that makes a man a man? Is it his origins? The way things start? Or is it something else? Something harder to describe?” I know, right, what a great opening.
So the story opens with Hitler trying to get control of supernatural powers through the occult magic of Rasputin. He is going to release the seven gods of chaos, and out of the chaos, a new Eden will arise. A pretty accurate description of the insanity of modern revolutionary politics. Thankfully, the American army arrives, the plot is thwarted, Hitler is stopped, and the portal to the gods of chaos is closed. But Satan's newborn snuck through. Since there is a Christian on the scene, someone knows what to do with an orphaned demon. You adopt him, rename him, and have him hunt monsters for the FBI, Bureau for Paranormal research and defense division. On the front desk it reads “in absentia luci tenebrae vincunt.' In the absence of light, darkness prevails.
Every morning, Hellboy wakes up and files off the horns given to him by his old father, and sets out to make his new father proud. He loves his father and wants to be like him, so he goes out and fights monsters for the light. There is a wonderful scene, that is the turning point of the movie, where Rasputin comes to Hellboy's father and explains to him that Hellboy was born for the purposes of his father, namely, the apocalyptic destruction of the world. Rasputin says, “If only you had had him destroyed 60 years ago, none of this would have come to pass. But then, how could you have known. Your God chooses to remain silent.” Rasputin says that Satan has revealed to him the child's true name and asks if he would like to know it. And his father's response is, “I know what to call him. I call him son, and nothing you can do or say can change that.”and then he clutches the cross that he carries with him as he is killed. He dies trusting that his own Father in heaven will take care of his son.
Then comes the big final temptation. The name given him by his first father grows back Hellboy's horns and transforms him into the key to unlock the gods of Chaos, but his friend reminds him who his true father is by throwing him his father's cross, which is emblazoned onto his hand. At which point, he breaks the regrown horns from off of his head, kills Rasputin, and finds himself face to face with the ultimate evil god-monster. He fights him with a sword that he pulls from the hands of a gargoyle statue that sits in front of a cross. Until he goes into the tomb of the monsters mouth with a bomb, and destroys the death monster from the inside, thereby saving his Isha, his Eve, his fire-bride from the death that held her. Death has lost it's sting. And they kiss.
What a story. I still get chills every time I see it. But here is the reason that it is such an important story arc for Christians to be familiar with. It is the story line that daily plays out in our lives. Are we going to believe that our adoption into the family of God, our justification as the children of God, united to Christ, or are we not going to believe in our adoption, and follow after our biological Father. We have been removed from the line of Adam, though, like Hellboy, our flesh still reflects our old father. Our adoption was sealed, our sonship was cemented, when the only eternally begotten son of God died as our brother.
This is the temptation we face. Whose son are we going to believe we are are. We are sanctified by faith. We finish the same way that we started. By believing what God says about us. God tells us that he looks at us and says, "My Child. You are mine. Trust in your Father, follow your older brother Jesus. I am well pleased in him and I am well pleased in you. Leave behind the old dead man and his old dead works. Come and live. You are my son.
And just as Hellboy's realization that his adoption defined him led him to be like his father and lay down his life as an act of love, so should your realization lead to you taking up your cross so that you can bear in your body, the family resemblance of your true family.