Home > Reviews > HELLBOY – Marco Beltrami

HELLBOY – Marco Beltrami

hellboyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Comic books seem to be Hollywood’s most fertile breeding grounds for new stories these days; after exhausting the Batman, Spider-Man and Superman franchises, some lesser-known works have been adapted recently – and so hot on the heels of Daredevil and The Punisher comes Hellboy, adapted from the work of Mike Mignola by my old drinking buddy Pete Briggs, and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Hellboy is the story of a demon (Ron Perlman), conjured up by a team of Nazi scientists to help their failing cause at the end of World War II. Rescued, while still a baby, by the kindly Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), Hellboy grows up to be a member of the FBI Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, whose motto is “There are things that go bump in the night – we are the ones who bump back”. Hellboy is called into action when the Russian mad monk Rasputin (Karel Roden) – who originally summoned Hellboy all those years ago – is resurrected, and attempts to open a portal between Earth and the Netherworld, which will allow all manner of unspeakable evil to pass through. Accompanied by rookie FBI agent Myers (Rupert Evans) and fellow BPRD “freaks” Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), Hellboy sets off to track down Rasputin and his minions, unaware that he has a larger part to play in the scheme of things…

While not fully living up to all its pre-release hype, Hellboy is still a marvelously entertaining ride, featuring a standout performance from Perlman, an incredibly talented actor who more than deserves his moment in the spotlight. Counterbalancing his demonic appearance with cigar-chomping attitude and sardonic wit, Hellboy is a wonderfully irreverent super-hero, who is equally at home working out and munching on nachos as he is saving humanity from the forces of evil. Technically, the film is superb, with gorgeous production design by Stephen Scott, amazing make-up effects courtesy of Rick Baker and the gang, and some refreshingly retro action sequences, which generally ignores CGI in favor of the classic “two guys in rubber suits” approach.

Having suffered far too many lackluster comic book scores recently (Revell’s Daredevil, Ottman’s X-Men 2), it comes as a wonderful surprise to learn that Marco Beltrami’s score for Hellboy is an absolute delight; one of the best of the year, and certainly one of the best of the Italian/American’s career. Beltrami and Del Toro collaborated previously on Mimic and Blade 2, both to satisfying effect, and their third time is just as much of a charm as the previous two.

Fully orchestral, with added parts for a choir, electric guitars, subtle synths, and even a theremin, Hellboy whips up a frenzy from start to finish with its combination of powerful themes, helter-skelter action, large-scale choral performances, and a surprisingly large amount of moving material for the massed ranks of the string section. The main theme for Hellboy himself, a swaggering electric guitar motif, first appears in “Main Title”, but is cleverly worked into several other cues as a leitmotif for the red-skinned hero. The action material, as heard in the likes of “Fireproof” and “Alley Fight” is fast and complex, building upon rhythmic patterns and instrumental colors heard in earlier Beltrami scores such as Terminator 3, the aforementioned Mimic, and the ever-popular Scream trilogy.

However, by far the standout tracks are the ones which contain the score’s emotional content. “Liz Sherman”, “Father’s Funeral” and “Investigating Liz” all have an element of tragic grandeur that has not been heard to this extent in anything from Beltrami’s past. They hint at Hellboy’s unrequited love for his fellow mutant, Liz (Selma Blair), and from time to time reach heights that, on previous experience, you wouldn’t have expected Beltrami to be capable of reaching. When the choir enters the mix, as in the unexpectedly touching Wagnerian aria “Kroenen’s Lied”, Hellboy soars.

One thing which should be pointed out is the fact that Varese’s album does not contain a single performance of arguably the score’s best theme: “Hellboy’s Heroic Theme”. A magnificent orchestral piece, the melodic line for which is performed by a mass of brass, it appears in its fullest form at the very end of the end credits and which (despite some superficial similarities to “The Throne Room” finale from Star Wars) would have been a welcome addition to the CD. As it is, this glaring omission can be rectified by downloading the end credits cue – the “BPRD Suite” – from Marco Beltrami’s official site at www.marcobeltrami.com.

Ten years after first entering film music consciousness, and after suffering far too much negative press due to his frustrating tendency to continually choose to score horror movies and thrillers, Marco Beltrami has finally come of age. Admittedly, Hellboy is not a huge departure from previous films in genre terms, but in respect to the music, Hellboy shows a whole new level of maturity, thematic excellence and dramatic sense that will surely – finally – see him shaking off the shackles of typecasting.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Oct. 7th, 1944 (1:18)
  • Meet Hellboy (1:29)
  • Main Title (1:06)
  • Snow Walkers (2:22)
  • Liz Sherman (2:26)
  • Fireproof (1:34)
  • Rooftop Tango (1:13)
  • Wake Up Dead (3:19)
  • Evil Doers (2:44)
  • Kroenen’s Lied (performed by Thomas Truhitte and Desiree Goyette) (1:57)
  • Father’s Funeral (2:03)
  • Alley Fight (3:11)
  • Nazis (2:43)
  • Investigating Liz (3:22)
  • Abe Sapien (1:28)
  • Mechanical Mausoleum (0:41)
  • Soul Sucker (3:31)
  • Stand By Your Man (2:32)
  • Hellboy & Liz (2:46)

Running Time: 44 minutes 58 seconds

Varése Sarabande VSD-6562 (2004)

Music composed by Marco Beltrami. Performed by The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Pete Anthony and Marco Beltrami. Orchestrations by Pete Anthony, Marco Beltrami, Bill Boston, Chris Guardino, Randy Kerber, Jon Kull, Carlos Rodriguez, Ceiri Jorjussen and Marcus Trumpp. Featured musical soloist Robbie Virus. Recorded and mixed by John Kurlander. Album produced by Marco Beltrami.

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