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Face Off: Van Helsing vs. Hellboy

01.23.2014by: Dave Davis
In last week's Face-Off column, it was a tight race as to whether your favorite movie version of Tom Clancy's CIA analyst Jack Ryan was played by Harrison Ford or Alec Baldwin. We'll call this one... too close to call!

This weekend in I, FRANKENSTEIN, Aaron Eckhart arrives in theaters as Frankenstein's creation, now reimagined as a superhuman defender of mankind during a war between gargoyles and demons.

Seems like a good time to have another pair of prominent big-screen monster-fighters face off against each other -- VAN HELSING and HELLBOY. Who's the better battler of beasts?
Also Known as
The Left Hand of God
The Right Hand of Doom
Job Description
Travels the world of the late 19th century and eliminates malicious boogeymen for The Knights of the Holy Order, a secret section of the Vatican proclaiming themselves the “last defense against evil”
Works as a special operative for the clandestine Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), which protects the population from being annihilated by occult and supernatural threats
Fashion sense
Black leather duster jacket, heavy metal hair, pimp hat
Brown trenchcoat, bare chest, filed headhorns
Mission
Go to Transylvania and assist the royal Valerious family with their blood oath to eliminate the threat of nefarious vampire Count Dracula, whose continued existence is preventing several generations of deceased Valerious kin from entering the gates of Heaven
Stop the resurrected Grigori Rasputin from exploiting Hellboy's demon origins to free the imprisoned serpentine creatures called Ogdru Jahad who'll destroy the Earth, and then later prevent the elven Prince Nuada from activating the indestructible Golden Army, which will exterminate mankind
Disadvantage
Has no memory of his true identity
Occasionally has to ride in the back of a garbage truck
Arsenal
Two custom revolvers with crucifix handgrips

Grappling hook gun

Sawed-off shotgun

Gas-powered automatic crossbow that fires something like a thousand bolts before reloading

Spinning Tojo blades
"The Samaritan", an oversized revolver that fires special monster-killing rounds containing garlic, holy water and white oak shavings

"Big Baby", a six-shot handcannon that fires powerful shells engraved with the words "SUCK ON THIS". It also has a built-in music box
Love Interest
Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), a Transylvania native who Van Helsing accidentally kills when he turns into a werewolf and knocks her onto a velvet couch
Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a troubled pyrokinetic who Hellboy eventually wins the heart of (and knocks up with twins)
Other Accomplices
Friar Carl, a gadget guru

Frankenstein's monster
Abe Sapien, a kindly amphibian with empathic abilities

FBI agent John Myers, a new BRPD recruit

Professor Broom, Hellboy's surrogate father who raised him from a little demon

Johann Krauss, a German psychic and disembodied ectoplasmic spirit who inhabits a special containment suit

FBI director Tom Manning

Nuala, the peaceful elf princess who wants to help stop her twin brother from destroying mankind
Primary Foes
Count Dracula, an ancient effete vampire who walks up walls and generally overacts

Dracula's vampire brides, a trio of buxom flying she-demons

Velkan Valerious, a werewolf

Igor, Dracula's laboratory lackey
Grigori Rasputin, a Russian mystic seemingly killed during a WWII Nazi experiment, only to return decades later

Kroenen, a deadly Nazi assassin kept alive by black magic and clockwork parts

Ilsa Haupstein, Rasputin's lovely but lethal henchwoman

Sammael, a hellhound whose death brings about the reincarnation of two more Sammael

Nuada, an exiled elf prince with a grudge against humanity

Mr. Wink, a giant cave troll who assists Nuada

Actor
The multi-talented Hugh Jackman, best known for portraying the adamantium-clawed mutant Wolverine in the X-MEN movies while simultaneously garnering critical acclaim for his serious dramatic work
Veteran character actor and voice actor Ron Perlman, who has appeared in more movies and TV shows than most people would have time to watch in their life
Director
Stephen Sommers, who has also given us THE MUMMY, THE MUMMY RETURNS, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA and DEEP RISING
Guillermo del Toro, who has also given us THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, BLADE II, PAN'S LABYRINTH and PACIFIC RIM
Origins
Professor Abraham Van Helsing was originally introduced in Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel "Dracula". Variations and descendents of the character have since appeared in other media, including comics, games, TV shows and movies. Notable actors to portray the character include Peter Cushing, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and Christopher Plummer.
Created by writer-artist Mike Mignola in 1993, Hellboy has since appeared in numerous comic stories published by Dark Horse Comics, along with several novels, two feature films and a pair of animated movies.
Hellboy
Jackman's VAN HELSING may have more technique when he's dispatching enemies, but unfortunately he's stuck in a cheerless adventure packed with silly script decisions and inconsistent CGI spectacle.

Hellboy has a refreshingly straightforward punch/shoot style, and rather than fight bastardizations of Universal monsters, he must contend with evils in human form along with more fantastical opponents such as dog-demons, Lovecraftian tentacled chaos-things, devilish tooth fairies, an elemental forest god and a self-repairing mechanical army.

Ultimately the playful tone and team dynamic of the HELLBOY movies are more satisfying, and the demon who rejects his wicked heritage for the sake of good wins this clash.

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