At The Movies - Hell Boy Re-Boot Should Go You Know Where
By Jordan Bosch
Guillermo del Toro really wanted to make Hellboy 3; an end to his planned trilogy of films based off of the popular Dark Horse comic series by Mike Mignola.
His fans wanted that too, as his two Hellboy movies were quite distinct from most of their genre contemporaries: a mix of superhero film with elements of gothic fiction and creature features presented in a fun and charismatic way with a cast of lesser-name actors playing their parts with the utmost dedication.
But that sequel fell apart for a number of reasons (mostly del Toro’s budget conditions), so instead, we have a Hellboy rebootdirected by Neil Marshall, admittedly one of the best directors from Game of Thrones.
However his skills wouldn’t be apparent from this movie alone, which isn’t just horribly told and excruciatingly excessive, but mind-bogglingly incompetent.
After the completely inconsequential death of his former partner, Hellboy (David Harbour), demon agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research a Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) to England to aid their British counterpart the Osiris Club.
While there however, Hellboy learns of a grand conspiracy by supernatural monsters to resurrect a powerful Arthurian witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich) who would bring about the apocalypse.
The pacing of this movie is horrendous, so many beats are rushed, unfocussed, and sloppy that they’re jarring to watch. Every exposition scene is hurrying along to the next action sequence when they’re not trying in vain to be both. That happens a lot in this movie: characters dispensing important (or often insignificant lore-based) information while some major action or violent set-pieceis occurring, to the degree that one character exposits as they’re literally decomposing.
None of this is helped by an awful script and atrocious editing that leaves the film feeling fragmented and incoherent. On top of it all the movie has a serious tone problem, shifting between ham-fisted violent imagery, comic relief, pseudo-serious drama, and even in one instance a sudden bizarre homage to campy 1940s film serials in which Thomas Haden Church makes a bewilderingly nonsensical cameo as some kind of G.I.Joe character.
All of this, the severe pacing, editing, dialogue, and tone are immediately apparent in the opening backstory sequence, which has to be one of the worst of its kind I’ve ever seen!
This sequence also establishes from the start that Hellboy is an immensely stupid movie, not only in its story, which is dull clichéd, pedantic, and reliant on borrowing plot points from del Toro’s movies without any understanding of how to pull them off; but in how much it caters and panders to adolescent sensibilities of violence.
In an effort to constantly remind the audience of its R-rating, the movie features quite a bit of ludicrous gore –and not the kind of uncomfortable gore you’d find in horror movies, but just exploitative graphic effects: people being torn in half by demons, a man getting his jaw ripped off, multiple impalements, etc. There’s no purpose for any of these beyond the sheer gimmick of their presence –it’s exactly what we were afraid Deadpool and Logan would be!
Additionally, the film basks in its demonic content and imagery, as though it needs to exclaim loudly and often how metal it is. Occasionally there’s an interesting graphic design that kind of works, like the hag character Baba Yaga (until the filmmakers decide to go for pure gross-out effect with her) and her Howl’s Moving Castle home –a sequence which also features a set-piece that appears to be an ironic homage to Pan’s Labyrinth.
And then there’s the cast. David Harbour already had a hell of a job filling the shoes of Ron Perlman, but his dialogue and make-up don’t do him any favours. He sounds so awkward and uncomfortable saying a lot of these lines, and the make-up seems to really inhibit his expressiveness.
The characters’ personality doesn’t extend beyond one-liners either, all the more reminding you how much more relatively rounded Perlmans’ interpretation was, who was tough and sardonic yes, but also an awkward misfit.
This movie doesn’t seem to be aware either that “Hellboy” is kind of a silly name, and that there was a reason in del Toro’s movies most of his friends and acquaintances instead called him “Red”.
Ian McShane is one of the more tolerable elements, but even he can’t compare to his predecessor, the late great John Hurt. The relationship between him and Hellboy is much moreabrasive in this movie too, and though it’s not inherently a bad idea, it makes investing in either of them much more difficult. Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim are also in this film, both affecting unconvincing English accents (Lane in particular is fed a lot of stereotype British phrases, shining a spotlight on her disingenuousness).
And Jovovich over-acts her thin villain, but never quite to the degree of being an enjoyable performance –there’s still too little substance there.
Hellboy makes all the same mistakes as 2017’s The Mummy, but somehow manages to be even worse; and just like The Mummy, it makes its previous incarnation look like a masterpiece by comparison. This movie is so slipshod and idiotic that it literally gave me a headache. If you can, re-watch del Toro’s movies for your Hellboy fixation, and pray to the Devil the sequel this film sets up never happens.