Hellboy review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There’s a bitterness that comes with a reboot such as Hellboy. Gone is Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic direction, replaced by the messier direction of Neil Marshall. Gone is Ron Perlman in the role of Hellboy, replaced by the less buff and swagger-deficient David Harbour. That may seem unfair to compare and look down on the new Hellboy but it’s hard to shake the del Toro trilogy that will never be completed when the Perlman era Hellboy is restructured as the polar opposite of the mystique and brilliance in del Toro’s movies. But even if hampering those thoughts, the film is still a massive mess of misfires.
If you’re worried that the Hellboy would reboot would be a not-so-impressive rehash of origins, you’d be wrong; it’s far worse. Not only are we treated to the backstory of Hellboy once more, the demon extracted from hell by Nazis that was taken in by the BPRD to combat demonic forces, but the backstories of every single character. You’ll get to learn all about Hellboy’s adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) and his role in Hellboy’s upbringing. You’ll hear all about the paranormal powers of Alice (Sasha Lane), a girl Hellboy has known since she was a baby. You’ll be treated to a forced tale of soldier Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) having a conflicting nature about monsters in addition to being one himself.
Oh, and we haven’t even gotten to the Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), back from the dead to take revenge after being slain by King Arthur. To be fair, her backstory is the most entertaining, opening the film with a mix of grayscale and red with McShane telling her story with grit. It’s a great mood-setter, albeit for a film that’ll let you down fast. Nimue’s rise from the underworld has her hiring a revenge-seeking warthog creature and they have some decent chemistry but there’s no time for that! The urban fantasy must make several stops of giant slaying, vampire wrestling, battling witches, and paying Merlin’s coffin a visit.
Hellboy is rather astounding as a bad movie that spells everything out and never lets anything feel organic. This is the biggest problem in that Hellboy has to feel conflicted about who to side with when Nimue promises Hellboy a more accepting world when it all comes to an end. But where is this hatred for humanity spawned from? Though he is targeted by some monster hunters, he seems accepted enough at a wrestling ring or a bar where he can just stroll on in and have a drink. Where does this hatred spawn from? No time; gotta tell instead of show because there’s no room for getting to know these characters. Not when there’s a tidal wave of characters who will either spout exposition or do nothing.
It’s a shame to admit that Hellboy suffers from this overstuffing that has become a common issue with modern comic book movies desiring more. Also feeling cramped are the special effects which are presented in great abundance and without much spectacle. There’s a very jarring scene where Hellboy is smacked around by giants wielding massive swords and the compositing is so terrible I don’t understand why the film didn’t just shirk the live-action element and become 100% animated. A film that features ghost-punching, ghost-vomiting, contorting witches, moving houses, and city-sized monsters could benefit from such a format.
I don’t want to compare but, really, we could have had a Hellboy 3. We could have had the story finish out a trilogy where Hellboy had to deal with that cliffhanger of his best girl being pregnant with twins. Instead, we've been presented an overstuffed, watered-down, exposition-riddled trainwreck that is a dud in every aspect, from the forced humor to the goofy special effects and backstory-leaden script.