a critiQal film review Hellboy (2019)

Plot: A legendary half-demon superhero (Harbour) is called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers Nimue the Blood Queen (Jovovich), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.

Reviewed
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  • ...the reboot no one wanted is missing the soul of the previous films - and brings nothing new except f-bombs and gore.

With the recent digital release of Hellboy, it seemed like a good time to check out this reboot that nobody asked for. Aside from Hollywood remaking everything, despite whether it needs it or not (aka A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)), was there a point to this reboot? Or has Hollywood (again) wasted our time?

David Harbour takes the title role in Hellboy. While he’s been a surprise on Stranger Things (TV) lately, he doesn’t seem quite as suited for this role. With Ron Perlman’s iconic performance in the previous Hellboy (2004) series looming, Harbour doesn’t seem to be having anywhere near the same amount of fun with the character. Instead, he seems to just be going through the motions – just like the rest of the film.

Sadly, Milla Jovovich’s villainous witch has her fair share of problems too in Hellboy. While trying her hardest to play crazy, she doesn’t have that same bad-ass attitude that won her so many fans in the Resident Evil (2002) series. And she sorely needs that edge to get past the muddled mess around her.

Ian McShane, however, is a different story. Like other films he’s been in (Death Race (2008) comes immediately to mind), he rises above the film going on around him and delivers another strong performance. Unfortunately, he’s not the main star of Hellboy (and his performance is marred near the end of the film by some shoddy CGI).

Daniel Dae Kim (of “Hawaii Five-O” (TV) and “Lost” (TV) fame) and Sasha Lane actually do better than expected in Hellboy, but their characters feel a bit short-changed. With so much focus on the title character and Milla’s Nimue, their secondary characters feel pushed aside, when the viewer would much rather focus on their enthusiastic performances.

With a reboot that literally no one wanted, director Neil Marshall had a hard task ahead of him when making Hellboy. How do you make viewers come to theaters anyway? Rather than focusing on a smart script or coherent plot (as one might expect), he decided to throw in a barrel of f-bombs and up the gore. Sadly, this is apparent for the cheap lure it is right from the start. Without getting the viewers to care about the characters, watching them tear through grotesques (no matter how downright disturbing they might be) becomes a bit too mindless. By the time the viewer has hit the halfway point, they are already jaded to the gore and just slug on, waiting for the finale they hope will be worth the wait (it isn’t).

Probably the biggest problem with Hellboy, though, is it’s obvious indecision on what kind of movie it wants to be. Is it a horror? Is it a conflicted superhero drama? Is it an action pic? Is it a campy R-rated Deadpool (2016) wannabe? Instead of picking one, it just jumps back and forth, delivering a chilling moment (the Baba Yaga), an action moment (the Giant battle), a choice for the hero with consequences, and then tosses in a bad joke to up the camp factor. Sadly, while trying to be all the above, it fails at being even one, and the viewer will walk away wishing the director had just made up his mind.

Hellboy – the reboot no one wanted brings nothing new to the table except f-bombs and gore – and without the soul of the previous films, that’s not enough.