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  • Writer's pictureartgainz

Alphas in Film: Professor Bruttenholm

"Professor Bruttenholm"[comic book panel] by Mike Mignola.

Any fan of the Hellboy comics by Mike Mignola was almost certainly disappointed by the 2019 Hellboy film, which completely failed to capture the tone of the comics, turning a Shakespeare-laden masterpiece into the goriest film I have ever seen.

Guillermo Del Toro’s unfinished film trilogy, although it may not have been as faithful in terms of story line, did a much better job capturing the spirit of the comic books.

When I think of Hellboy, I think of Shakespearean allusions and hilarious slapstick comedy. In the comics, Hellboy is constantly interacting with ghosts in period garb quoting Shakespeare and other literary luminaries. There is a hilarious segment where he accidentally blows up half a mountain because he can’t remember which of the two types of grenades on his utility belt to use. There is a segment where his “foolproof” rocket pack won’t engage after he’s jumped out of an airplane, prompting him to repeatedly mash the On button, and an absolutely genius panel where the thing explodes. Hellboy is unharmed, of course. He’s fireproof.

The 2019 film has some humour and some old-timey allusions, but most of the film is completely unwatchable because of how gory it is. Whoever made the film did not understand the audience. Any gore that appears in the comics is stylized.

What I found fascinating about the film, however, was the portrayal of Professor Bruttenholm, who was seriously miscast as Ian McShane. Now, Ian McShane is a great actor, and I suppose he was cast in the film because he always plays characters with vaguely defined supernatural or quasi-supernatural powers or arcane knowledge, but the problem is that Ian McShane is an alpha---or he only portray alphas---and Professor Bruttenholm is not an alpha.

It’s not that a professor cannot be an alpha. Professor Challenger in The Lost World, both the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the film starring John Rhys Davies, is an alpha. But in the comics, “Broom” is not an alpha. I might describe him as an alpha nerd, but there is a world of difference between an alpha and an alpha nerd.

The character of Professor Broom was captured perfectly by John Hurt in the Guillermo del Toro films, in my opinion. He played the character so well that he essentially became the character in my mind: a wise old man and a good father. He has some authority in the Bureau, but he is ultimately an advisor. He lets others lead. I’m not sure where he falls on the socio-sexual hierarchy, but I suspect he’s a delta.

In contrast, Ian McShane’s character is totally in charge of everything. His self-confidence radiates from him like the blinding beams of light that shot out Moses’ face. Rather than giving advice to those who ask, he gives commands. The real Professor Broom has an unwavering faith in God, and faith that he has raised his son right. McShane’s version has an unshakeable faith in himself.

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