HELLBOY (2019)

Reboots, remakes, and all that have every reason in the world to make people apprehensive about them. Like usual, pretty much everyone was apprehensive about the Hellboy reboot, but there were things here and there that made me somewhat interested. I really enjoyed Neil Marshall’s other films, with stuff like Dog Soldiers and Doomsday being schlocky B-movie goodness and The Descent being genuinely terrifying. I also love lead actor David Harbour, who has a lot of charisma and range. On top of all that, I enjoy the Hellboy character, and while Guillermo del Toro’s distinctly del Toro Hellboy vision would be missed, I was more accepting than normal for a new interpretation. 

Hellboy (2019), as you would expect, follows Hellboy (David Harbour), a demonic monster from the pits of Hell, complete with horns (which he files down) and a gigantic, stone arm that can wreak some serious havoc. While he’s technically in his 70’s, Hellboy ages slower than the rest of us, and still has the mind of an adolescent. That doesn’t stop his adoptive father Trevor (Ian McShane) from employing him as an agent of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.), an agency tasked with taking down monsters, demons, and other otherworldly forces. His next target, the Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich), an ancient, evil queen who (of course) has the power to destroy mankind. Like you would expect, it’s up to Hellboy and his allies to stop her.

I’m not a big comic book reader, so I don’t really know a lick about Hellboy, aside from the stuff in del Toro’s previous films. I just think he’s a cool looking character with a fun attitude. A big reason for that was Ron Perlman’s terrific performance, which pretty much defined the character. It would be tough to accept a new iteration, but I thought David Harbour was excellent in the role. I remember being very impressed with his performance in Stranger Things because he has a sure hand on both drama and comedy. He sells both beats here, with great timing and delivery during the funny bits, and genuinely emotional acting during the serious ones. Sure, he was under a load of prosthetics, but he had the perfect look and style, and was thankfully able to show off his chops. Harbour and the filmmakers at least did a good job in making the new Hellboy all their own. 

The problem is, he’s trapped in a terrible film that has nothing going for it at all. What do we get in exchange for del Toro’s wildly surreal creations and vision? Well, not really anything. It’s about as paint-by-numbers, going through the motions as it gets. There’s hardly a real plot. Just excuses to get Hellboy from one action scene to the next, until he can eventually kill the final boss and save the world. The other characters that team up with Hellboy are beyond bland and seem to exist just to have someone for Hellboy to talk to. Sasha Lane and Steven Yeun both have awfully fake British accents, all because the B.P.R.D. is located in the U.K. It just begs the question, why not hire Brits?Neither of the characters have chemistry with each other, which means a lot of the comedy between them fell flat. At least Ian McShane was fun, but he’s always fun, even when he’s in trash.

It seemed like Neil Marshall’s B-movie sensibilities and adoration of over the top gore would be a great fit for this project, but it feels so flat and stale, lacking his personal visual touches. He’s certainly no del Toro in the creature design department, but he can definitely do better than what we saw her. Maybe it’s because the effects were so mediocre across the board. There were some pretty sweet practical effects and makeup, but there’s a lot of CGI and it’s all awful. The blood is straight out of 300 and every computer-generated creature looks like it’s right out of a really good looking video game. It all feels like a cheap Syfy channel movie, even down to the writing. The violence and gore is at least fun and gleefully over the top, consistently getting some giggles and smiles out of me. It’s too bad there wasn’t more of that. There were apparently a lot of behind the scenes issues with Marshall and the producers, so maybe his full vision isn’t intact here. It certainly seemed more like an executive decision to throw in every generic rock song under the sun to go under action scenes. I’ve brought this up in my review for Thor: Ragnarok, but I should be excited by your action scenes because the movie is good, not because the music is. 

I was getting a lot of DC Extended Universe (DCEU) vibes here, especially the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. There’s a lot of background worldbuiling and fantastical characters that appear for one scene and that’s it. There’s a quite a lot going on for something with so little story and 90% of the dialogue is just exposition about what’s going on and what’s going to come next. Because of this and the random elements being incorporated in such a poor way, there were moments where I had no idea what was going on. Even then, I didn’t even care because the movie was so boring. This is clearly made for the comic book fans with all of the little references and Easter eggs to bigger things, but in the context of just this movie, it doesn’t really make sense. There are even two post-credits scene that are supposed to set-up some of these single scene characters and plot points for the future, but we know will never happen since this has basically gone nuclear the box office. 

Aside from David Harbour’s fun performance that carries the movie and some admittedly entertaining blood and gore, there’s not really much to get out of Hellboy (2019). It’s just another comic book film in a long line of comic book films trying to capitalize on the successful comic book films by trying to set up its own over-arching universe and reliance on laughs over seriousness. It looks cheap, feels cheap, and just overall seems like nobody head their soul into this project. I guess the Devil stole those before they even stepped on set. 


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