Review: Loud and obnoxious 'Hellboy' goes down in flames
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Living in Hell is probably better than this.
It’s tough to pinpoint who in the millennial mindset was clamoring for a reboot to “Hellboy.” Considering Guillermo del Toro delivered two worthy adaptations in 2004 and 2008, starring an actor that might as well had been born for the role, surely anyone with an emotional attachment to the character would’ve been content. I guess the folks who own the rights to the character wanted more, and perhaps that’s a good reason why the updated and highly commercialized “Hellboy” revamp is a flaming pile of obnoxious trash.
Loud, dull, and cranky at just about every corner, Neil Marshall’s take on Mike Mignola’s iconic character is a jumbled mess, and lacks the type of humor and emotional weight in storytelling that Toro (now an Oscar winner) brought to the table. Honestly, 2019’s “Hellboy” is lousy without any sense of direction or purpose. The only caveat to revisiting the property is the R rating, which it splatters on its sleeve with holy gruesomeness. Theoretically, this would give Marshall (who made the shockfest stunner “The Descent”) some wiggle room to give the character some maturity, but that bold choice wears thin when Andrew Cosby’s screenplay fails to give this bloated adventure a solid reason to exist (though it can drop the F bomb with or without context).
There’s a boatload of gore here, ranging from silly decapitations to some actually startling images, whereas del Toro’s original relied on Mignola’s atmosphere to help push the story forward, Marshall’s team only seems to bask in their censorship freedom and the narrative suffers greatly because of it. It also looks like Lionsgate had to rush to get the picture into theaters, as I noticed several unfinished CGI sequences that could’ve used a hug or two. I haven’t seen CGI this terrible since The Rock in “The Mummy Returns,” and that was 2001.
“Stranger Things” star David Harbour has been tasked with giving a new edge to Hellboy, and though his performance isn’t the worst thing about this remake, Cosby’s script gives him no leash other than to bark comic zips and look confused whenever a warlock, witch, or vampire harks its way on screen. The design on Hellboy is also questionable, it’s like the artists had no input; starting with the hair - in the comic, he has no hair on his head than on his shoulder; here, he has a slick style that reminds me of the hair implant jokes made in the 2004 film. Not to mention his nickname of “Big Red” doesn’t go very far this time around, nor does his oversized right fist (made of stone, unlike his left hand) - especially when his tint feels more orange than internal flame.
At times, Cosby’s narrative does find its attitude and spunk, especially in the first twenty minutes where we get taken back to the Dark Ages (517 AD for those keeping track at home) and figuring out how King Arthur defeated an evil witch called Nimue the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) when she wanted to help fairy tale monsters take over the world. He chopped up her body and buried her all over England, meaning that some present day baddies would need to track her down like Thanos does with the six infinity stones, and piece her together so she can wreak havoc all over again. This all punctuated with a scene of the half assembled Jovovich sitting on a sofa complaining to gigantic and silly looking wild boar trying to find her limbs.
Now before Hellboy makes a foil of these plans, he must first hunt for giants in the English countryside, confront a child eating hag called Baba Yaga, and reconnect with a young psychic Alice (Sasha Lane) whose life he once saved. OH and I can’t forget the grouchy military man (Daniel Dae Kim - boring) who accompanies these two on their quest to defeat the blood queen, nor can we omit the daddy issues between Hellboy and his adoptive father (Ian McShane) that never makes you care, and this all happens to the backdrop of classic rock tunes, because I guess Lionsgate couldn’t afford a composer.
There’s more…much, much, more; with several action sequences that work on their own, but pieced together within the film it’s downright implausible. You almost feel like editor Martin Bernfeld had to much at his disposal, and Marshall basically said “Yes! Throw it all on the screen,” and running a staggering two hours - it’s hard to imagine this couldn’t have been a leaner 100 minutes. Sure, it’s great for fans of the comics who, you know, understand the hundreds of easter eggs you're throwing at them, but for the casual moviegoer it makes you question sanity.
Regardless, “Hellboy” is bloated beyond repair, to the point where if the filmmakers had committed to a balanced vision: either a stylish and gory R rated reboot, or a fantastical adventure with an emotional core, perhaps it could’ve been something - Marshall tries to weave a narrative in between those fixtures, but comes up short. To that end, “Hellboy” - doused in clunky CGI tomfoolery, burns in its place.