Movie Review: Hellboy
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Director: Neil Marshall
by Jason Koenigsberg
This Hellboy is bloody as hell. Sadly it is also boring as hell too. This movie is a mind-numbing experience where only those that want to see gross stuff happen on the screen will walk out satisfied. The film starts out promising with an opening shot in black and white of a crow pulling an eye out of the socket of an upside-down corpse, not the usual sight for audiences. We then see the beautiful and ageless Milla Jovovich and an evil witch accompanied by intriguing Ian McShane narration explaining a backstory about how she once tried to destroy humanity in the sixth century A.D. and will try to bring about the apocalypse again.
We jump from there to present day Tijuana, Mexico and meet Hellboy (played by David Harbour from Netflix’s Stranger Things) sent to track down an old friend who is now a vampire/demon disguised as a luchador. They fight, it is graphic and loud, and pretty much every scene after this is a variation of their gruesome exchange. Director Neil Marshall uses the style over substance method with a lot of action scenes choreographed and shot in one take and filled with gallons of CGI blood, but none of it really means anything. Which is a shame because Marshall is a talented director who made The Descent (2006), Doomsday (2008) and helmed the ‘Black Water’ episode from Game of Thrones, one of the most beloved episodes of the HBO series. The problem with Hellboy is the copy and paste script that is trying to emulate the Marvel formula just with hard R-rated violence. Hellboy is lighthearted enough and does not take itself too seriously, but the film just moves from set piece to set piece with boring exposition along the way and without any sense of urgency or TLC for the characters and their relationships.
The special effects other than the bloody nature of them are nothing memorable. There are a lot of monsters and some look cool like Hellboy himself and Milla Jovovich’s sorceress, whereas others are pathetic and laughably bad, like these disgusting giants Hellboy fights, and Milla Jovovich’s lackey that can best be described as ‘Man-Bear-Pig’ (I hope Trey Parker and Matt Stone get some financial restitution from this movie).
This Hellboy is obviously going to face comparisons to Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy (2004) which starred Ron Perlman as the title character. Make no mistake about it, Guillermo del Toro’s vision is vastly superior not just because he is a better director and had a better cast, but the script also had a character that was a regular human who was assigned to the secret government agency that went on supernatural missions. His character was thrust into the world of monsters like a fish out of water and the audience in that film was on the journey with him. This remake has no human character to relate to nor does it have any heroic journey. It is just a series of action sequences held together by shoddy exposition with bloody as hell violence making it fun for teenage boys and who might find it edgy but that is it. This Hellboy is incredibly dull and unimaginative and even detractors of the 2004 Hellboy could never accuse Guillermo del Toro’s film of lacking imagination or heart. The audience felt the pain of Ron Perlman’s Hellboy as he sawed down his horns in a futile manner to try and blend into society.
Here Hellboy is never given much of a chance to emote sympathy. He is just here to kill CGI monsters. The sole performance that struck a chord in this Hellboy is Sasha Lane (from 2016’s American Honey) as a psychic girl Hellboy saved when she was a baby. When she appears onscreen it was like a burst of energy in an otherwise lifeless movie. Daniel Dae Kim (from ABC’s Lost) also does the best he can with his supporting role and adds depth with his limited screen time. The rest of Hellboy is bloody, mind-numbing and ultimately forgettable.
Skip this Hellboy remake and watch the fifteen-year-old original which is currently streaming on Netflix.