Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim
Written by: Andrew Cosby and Mike Mignola
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Going into Hellboy, my expectations were a little low. They were only on the low expectancy scale purely because Guillermo Del Toro wasn’t going to be part of this reboot, even though he had been trying for years to make the third installment of his series. As a massive GDT fan, I love his two Hellboy films. They also came out to much controversy when they were released, but many can agree they are beautifully done films overall. Hellboy‘s 2004 and 2008 films came out during a time where comicbook blockbusters were still rare.
The Avengers franchise wasn’t yet in the picture. Hellboy was a Dark Horse comic book character not as well known as the likes of Marvel’s Spider-Man or DC’s Batman. Bringing this misfit character back to the big screen during the biggest year of comic book franchises is an interesting move but sadly a poor execution of it. I will warn you now there will be comparisons to GDT’s versions sprinkled throughout this review. For that, I apologize, but I feel it needs to be pointed out. His films weren’t well received back in the day either but sparked a cult-following considering. Not sure this version will have the same type of success, though.
For those who may not know who Hellboy is, he’s a wisecracking, sarcastic half-demon raised by humans. He’s also a gentle giant wrestling with his demonic impulses while trying to save the world from the various supernatural villains attacking it. He’s a healthy mix of gothic-horror-meets-dark-fantasy with a little average joe in it. The film touches on his origin story, which I appreciated because I felt GDT’s didn’t as much.
As someone who never got into these comics, I found it helped to know his backstory. It gives us a reason why we should care for this character as the viewer. What I didn’t like was everything else that spiraled from his back story to make up the rest of the film. It was hard to follow at times–who exactly is The Lobster?–and felt it created unnecessary build-up to poorly constructed showdowns I personally expected more from. I felt like when certain elements were explained to us in such great detail, it was overdone but then left us wondering what the motivation for some of the characters were. I’m not sure this movie knew what story it wanted to tell is, except that it had Hellboy in it and needed to involve him in some way.
GDT’s Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman, was a jaded, no-nonsense character who very much was more man than boy. But in the latest 2019 reboot, directed by the British horror filmmaker Neil Marshall, Hellboy is a younger, sloppier, tequila-drinking mess who’s still trying to find himself in more ways than one. Played by Stranger Things’ s David Harbour, he put the “boy” back in the name, and I didn’t hate that. Harbour’s performance was easily the best thing about this film and kept it afloat in many ways. He was endearing and funny and put a lot of heart into being Hellboy.
However, a big, bad villain “Blood Queen” witch named Nimue, played by Milla Jovovich, was on the weaker scale of things. Cut into pieces after being captured by King Arthur and his Round Table, her body parts were locked away in boxes and scattered all over the world so she may never destroy the earth. But she is eventually rebuilt to continue her plague upon the world but only disappoints as her story progresses. Her introduction at the beginning of the film is incredibly badass, and she looks amazing as hell. She has minions and fellow witches as part of her coven, but it falls flat. These side characters do nothing to build her story or even defend her. Her eventual showdown with Hellboy is such a tease and not at all what was being sold to us throughout the movie.
In general, it feels like the movie may have a completely different and possibly stronger version of itself on an editing hard drive somewhere. Rumors of issues on set, Marshall not having full control, and some possible actors rubbing others the wrong way may have something to do with it. But the film isn’t a total loss. The monsters were pretty cool, especially Baba Yaga’s scenes, which reminded me of a Guillermo Del Toro creation. The insane gore found for a mainstream picture was kind of shocking to see at first but very enjoyable.
I can’t even recall the last time I saw bodies ripped in half with guts literally spilling out onto the floor in theaters before. Definitely not something for everyone, though. One thing that struck me was the CG and digital compositing in the film. It looked unfinished and poorly done. The giant fight scene especially looked choppy, shaky, and wasn’t pleasant to watch, and not because it was violent as hell. Considering this was intended to be a blockbuster, the CGI looked rushed in a way.
Marshall seemed to have wanted a different tone than the last two movies. It refrains from slightly more serious, creepy horror element with humor evoked by del Toro in favour of faster-paced action/comedy accompanied by 80’s rock music. I realized when compared to GDT, it probably sounds bad. It’s just different but still enjoyable overall as a stand-alone. I don’t want to fully shit on this film like other critics have. I had fun watching it in theaters, and it probably deserves a big screen viewing. But this is a discount Tuesday movie, unfortunately. That’s if you can get over all the plot holes and weak performances full of muddled motivations (that aren’t Harbour) and are able to sit back and have a good, mindless time. I realize this may be easier said than done.
Blood and Guts8.0/10
Makeup and Costumes8.0/10
David Harbour's acting skills8.0/10
- You get to see someone literally ripped in half!
- Hellboy himself.
- Blood Queen's Style.
- The storyline doesn't make any sense!
- Everyone but David Harbour's acting is terrible!
- Still no Guillermo Del Toro.
- Poor CGI quality throughout.