Disclaimer: A PG-13 version of the movie was reviewed. That being said, the M18 cut wouldn’t have helped much.
Hellboy starts off in black and white, a crow pecking out the rotting eye of a corpse, before proceeding to a gore-riddled montage sequence that appears to promise a dark, gritty and more horrifying reboot of the franchise.
I wish I was that corpse.
Hellboy ends up so convoluted that a contortionist could take notes. What’s truly disappointing is that this was supposed to be a sequel to two well-adapted movies doing right by the source material… but we ended up with a rubbish reboot.
At its best, the movie hits one step below mediocrity, and at its worst, as hard as a sleeping pill with a shot of whiskey. And cyanide.
The direction is aimless, the story is inane, the backstories are uninteresting, the jokes fall flat, the horror laughably childish, the cast… were OK, but they can only do so much to prop up the cardboard cut-outs the film calls characters.
Hellboy’s universal strength has always been its characters. Yes, the action is cool. Yes, the mythology is fun. But the characters, the misfits, the underdogs, the monsters that are trying to be good – that’s the best part of Hellboy‘s world, no matter the medium.
The reboot tries its absolute best to strip everything interesting about the characters away, instead placing abnormally intense focus on making them grotesque body horror puppets for shock value.
I feel bad for David Harbour. Ron Perlman and Hellboy was a match made in hell and it would have been hard to top it. Perlman’s Hellboy was a hardass, but an obvious softie underneath, contrasting nicely with his demonic origins and his desire to save humanity. Harbour’s Hellboy becomes a whiny, petulant teenage boy, more concerned with alcohol and blazing guns rather than any greater cause.
Almost as if someone decided that Hellboy needed a Michael Bay update. If Bay did gore the way he did explosions.
Ian McShane has done his “aloof but actually caring mentor” role so many times that he probably sleepwalked through this film, and still managed to deliver “I love you, Hellboy” well in this trainwreck.
Besides Hellboy’s getup, the lack of practical effects was painfully obvious during fight scenes. What was supposed to be a triumphant long shot of Hellboy battling three giants became a nausea-inducing CG-fest.
Some of the designs for the monsters were legitimately good, especially Baba Yaga – if only they stayed on screen for more than three seconds. If it wasn’t already evident that Guillermo del Toro wasn’t directing the movie because of the lack of giant robots, anime references or fish sex, his eye for spectacular action is also clearly missed here.
Glimpses of good ideas repeatedly shine through, but they get interrupted by a dumb joke, or a dumb argument, or a dumb flashback scene, or just a dumb thing. There’s no reprieve at all, no light at the end of the tunnel.
Hellboy is out now in all theatres with differing PG-13 and M18 ratings, so be careful before buying tickets. Or be really careful and don’t watch this at all. You’re not missing anything here. Just re-watch the first two Hellboy movies.