Hellboy (2019) Review

TO HELL WITH THIS MOVIE!


 

Back in 2004, the movie Hellboy was released; bringing comic’s artist Mike Mignola graphic novel creation of “Big Red”, Abe Sapien, and Dr. Bruttenholm for a cinematic adaptation. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, the film, which starred Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, and Rupert Evans, followed the story a demonic beast-turned superhero known as “Hellboy”, who secretly works to keep the world safe from paranormal threats with his team, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. The movie, which was loosely based off of Mignola’s comic Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was met with favorable reviews from critics and moviegoers (gaining a cult following for the feature’s look and appeal as well as Perlman’s performance as “Big Red” himself) and did gain a minor box office success by garnishing roughly $99 million against its $66 million production budget. With a modest box office number and a cult following of fans, a sequel was announced several years later as 2008’s Hellboy: The Golden Army continued the cinematic adventure, with dele Toro return back to the director’s chair as well as Perlman and Blair. Like the previous movie, The Golden Army was well-received by fans and moviegoers (praising del Toro’s fantasy atmosphere and Perlman’s performance as Hellboy) and was able to make $180 million at the box office against its budget of $85 million. With the success of both films, del Toro was interested in creating a third Hellboy installment, but the idea slowly diminished in the years following The Golden Army, with del Toro claiming the project dead in 2017. Now, Hollywood seems to revive the demonic beast turned paranormal superhero for a new iteration as Lionsgate and director Neil Marshall releases Hellboy, a 2019 reboot of Mignola’s Hellboy creation. Does this remake / reboot find new rhythm in being “devilishly” fun and entertaining or is it just simply a disastrous burnout?

THE STORY


As a current agent for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy (David Harbour) is a difficult demon to bring down. Raised and trained by his adoptive fatherly figure Dr. Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane), Hellboy’s latest mission brings him to Mexico, where his failure to help a colleague agent leaves him a mess and without purpose. Return back to B.P.R.D’s headquarters, Hellboy is tasked with helping the Osiris Club, a group of Englishmen in London, in eradicating several giants in the area. While there, Hellboy uncovers a plot to resurrect the Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich), an ancient sorceress that was sealed away in the Dark Ages by King Arthur himself…trapping her remains in separate areas to prevent from her returning. Now, on the cusp of Nimue’s resurrection, who seeks to continue her plans to take over the mortal world, Hellboy is paired with Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), an advanced medium getting used to her powers, and Ben Daimio (Daniel Day Kim), a shape-shifting manimal, to thwart the Blood Queen’s plan of overrunning the world with demons and monsters. However, Hellboy’s unclear origins and ultimate prophesized future holds the key to Nimue’s plan, casting a shadow of self-doubt on Big Red’s psyche.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


I do remember seeing the first Hellboy sometime after its theatrical release in 2004 (a little bit after its home release). I think I first saw it on HBO…or Showtime, or one of the other premium cable channels. It’s not that I was impressed with the movie to see it during its movie theater run, but it just looked a bit “uninteresting” to me. However, I actually did enjoy del Toro’s Hellboy. While I was unfamiliar with the graphic novel source material, the movie was enjoyable and entertaining. Sure, it was destined for greatness or up for any awards of any kind, but it was an interesting story that get me intrigued by it, especially thanks to del Toro’s creature designs as well as actor Ron Perlman’s portrayal of “Big Red” himself. It was definitely a cult classic of sort (and that’s kind of good thing). To be honest, I was kind of surprised that Hellboy: The Golden Army, the sequel to the 2004 film, was greenlit; mostly because I wasn’t expecting the studio to give the “go ahead” for a follow-up adventure. Still, the movie was released and (to my surprise) I actually liked it. To be more truthful, I felt that The Golden Army was actually better than the first movie; showcasing that del Toro had improvement on the previous film and offered a more “visual fun” movie than the 2004 installment. Thus, I was kind of surprised that Hellboy 3 never materialized, which was little bit disappointing to here, but del Toro did go on to produce some fine / memorable movies (i.e. Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, The Shape of Water), so I guess it kind of worked out (the right way) in the end. Still, it would’ve been cool to see del Toro and Perlman reteam up again to see “Big Red” back up on the silver screen.

Which brings me back around to talking about Hellboy, not the original 2004 film but rather a 2019 reboot of the same name. With the fate of Hellboy 3 in a state of perpetual “limbo”, the idea of the a third Hellboy installment sort of faded further and further into the background of my mind (and I’m sure a lot of people’s mind) as the 2010 era proceed forward. However, I was kind of sort of surprised to hear about the announcement that the franchise was gonna get a sort of reboot and have it released in 2019. Again, the original two Hellboy movies were good, but I wasn’t really super excited about. Thus, my interest in seeing this new 2019 iteration of Hellboy were very low. I do remember seeing the movie trailers for the film every now and again at my local movie theater and (to be honest) wasn’t that quite impressed with it. What did catch my interest was all the negative reviews that the film was receiving from those who saw the advance screenings; panning the feature entirely. Was the movie that bad? Or what is just something that critics didn’t like? Regardless, I decided (for better or worse) to go see Hellboy and make my own assumption on the new reboot movie. What did I think of it? Well, I do have to agree with what a lot of people are saying about this film. Despite a few fun nuances and good performance from David Harbour, 2019’s Hellboy just feels like a bloody yet lifeless dud endeavor that doesn’t really amount to much. The movie is so bland and painful to watch that it makes the previous two Hellboy movies look like masterpieces.

Hellboy is directed by Neil Marshall, whose previous works includes directing several feature films like Dog Soldiers, Doomsday, and Centurion, as well as directing several episodes for TV shows such as Black Sails, Timeless, and Game of Thrones. Given his nature of wide cast of directorial past endeavors, Marshall seems like an “iffy choice” to helm a reboot iteration of Hellboy, especially after the more creative styles and creature designs that Del Toro delivered in his two features. Still, Marshall does make for a decent effort in trying to put his own stamp / mark on the comic book character rather than try to emulate anything from Del Toro’s iterations of “Big Red” and his crusade battle against hordes of monsters and demons. To that end, Marshall succeeds by reimagining a more “fantastical” adventure for the titular character to explore throughout the course of the movie. In comparison, Marshal, who directed such action-packed Game of Thrones episodes like “Blackwater” and “The Watchers on the Wall”, makes Hellboy have some more creatively fun action sequences; featuring plenty of well-manned battle execution of these scenes that seem more fun (yet ridiculously chees…to some degree) on having Hellboy and several others square off against a plethora of fantasy creatures. This, of course, this is where the movie gets a rated R rating for its gruesome violence. I’ll go into more detail about that below, but it’s definitely one of the big selling-points of the feature…. yet it’s more of double-edge sword that backfires more than anything. In addition, the film’s script, which was penned Andrew Cosby, offer a good sampling of the classic fantasy variety, including various creatures (i.e. demons, vampires, witches, giants, etc.) as well as taking cues from legend folktales like Baba Yaga and King Arthur. Thus, those who find an interest in fantasy motifs and nuances will have something to look forward while watching Hellboy.

Presentation-wise, Hellboy definitely has its merits, which do elevate the movie (slightly), but also drags it down for a few cheap nuances. For starters, the movie’s production layout and art direction are actually really good, utilizing a lot of the fantasy / mythology aspect within its execution and inspirations that definitely lend credence. Thus, the efforts made by Paul Kirby (production designs) and the trio of art direction team (including Alexei Karaghiaur, Ivan Ranghelov, and Alessandro Troso) do quite a solid job in either coming up with some fantastic ideas (i.e. locations, set lay outs, and conceptual creature designs). Also, the costume designs by Stephanie Collie and Zornitsa Tsvetanova (who did the costumes during reshoots) are also quite good. Of course, they won’t win / get nominated for any awards or anything, but designs of them all (some a bit fantastical looking) definitely get the job done in add that extra layer of believability to the proceedings. Additionally, the cinematography work Lorenzo Senatore gives a decent job in how presents certain scenes (cinematically speaking) for the feature. There not bad, but neither are they incredible awesome….so it’s kind of in the middle of it. Lastly, the musical score, which was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch, has a few good moments here and there, but is mostly a mediocre endeavor for a feature film.

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that Hellboy doesn’t deliver on what is promised and fails to bring a sense of enticing entertainment to the proceedings. What’s prevalent in the movie is how boring the story being told is or rather the convoluted narrative that the feature takes to journey through. Of course, the premise of the movie, which follow more closely to several of the Hellboy comic books stories (i.e. Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, The Storm and the Fury, and Hellboy in Mexico), is chockfull of fantasy mythos and creatures of legend and follows a somewhat vaguely familiar from a wide variety of fantasy adventure of the past (be it books, TV, and films). However, while the story there, Cosby’s script is terrible riddled with problematic areas. For starters, the film takes quite a long time to actually get to the heart of the conflict, feeling disjointed from the very start (despite setting up bad guy character within the first few minutes) and somewhat rushing through the final climatic act of the feature. Furthermore, the movie’s script involves a lot of side-stories threads that much of the character development for the some of the main characters (i.e. Hellboy, Alice, Ben, and Broom) get left with simplistic caricatures that carry them across the film. There story progression is there, but it doesn’t rise beyond a few bumps here and there; rendering most of the characters (if not all) bland and one-dimensional.

What’s even worse is that Cosby’s script does that classic “more telling than showing” narrative path, which hinders the story being told. This is most apparent in one particular scene where Hellboy (along with Alice and Ben) venture on a side-quest storyline. However, the sideline story, while supposed to be meaningful and poignant, feels quite abrupt and rushed. The same thing can be said with the character of Ganeida, who seems like she was built up to be something important, but is quickly dismissed and never really heard of again. As you can see, these problems go on and on throughout the course of the movie, which makes Cosby’s script for Hellboy completely and (hopelessly) poorly written to the point where it becomes quite confusing. Personally, I was a little bit confused on some of the backstory elements for Hellboy that it perplexed on what was actually happen (be it good or bad implications) and how it would affect the story’s outcome.

Looking beyond the story, Hellboy just feels underwhelming and seems louder and noisier than coherently sound. This, of course, goes back to Marshall’s directing the project and simple just feels like he’s unequipped to handle a cinematic endeavor like this. Again, all the ideas are there, but are rather poorly executed in both storytelling (for a motion picture) and in staging several character / plot device moments. The end result of Hellboy is very much bland and vanilla, running through its story and brisk pace, which might sound good on paper, but never breaks to stop to fully examine certain scenes. Thus, like I said above, characters become flat and the film’s story becomes choppy. Marshall also makes the movie have a rather inconsistent tone throughout with the film switching back from slightly fun and lighthearted (to a certain degree) to shocking horror violence and then back again to more cheeky and campy tone. Plus, the decision (of which I assumed it was Marshall) to have heavy rock songs, which all feature some type of reference of hell or a devil of some kind of inkling, wears out its welcome instantly. It’s a fun idea, but the gimmick quickly becomes stale every time the scene changes. Additionally, some of the film’s visual effects (though creatively designs) are horribly rendered and are quite noticeable.

This brings me back around to talking about the R-rated violence. Of course, fans of the Hellboy comic book series wanted to see the gruesome hardcore violence for quite some time (again, the way that it was intended to be) and they’ll surely get that with this 2019 version of Hellboy. Unfortunately, a lot of the violence is really unnecessary. What do I mean? Well, a movie came be violent, but it needs to be of some important and value to the film. The violence in Hellboy is dialed up 11 with some pretty gruesome stuff that happens to some individuals, but it is merely there for a few “shock and awe” moments. It’s like the movie is super violent just for the sake being super violet and getting a R rating. To me, it just seems total unnecessary and really could’ve been toned down. Even some of the acts of violence and death seem goofy and ridiculous with some spotty / dated effect shot being used in those sequences.

The cast in Hellboy has few big / recognizable names amongst its various characters. However, much like the film itself, most of these actors and actress come across as simple caricatures; feeling hollow, cheesy, and forgetful right from the moment they appear on-screen. At the head of the pack and playing the film’s titular main protagonist character (i.e. Hellboy) is actor David Harbour. Known for his roles in Stranger Things, Black Mass, and The Newsroom, Harbour tackles on the mighty “Big Red” role that was made iconic by actor Ron Perlman in Del Toro’s Hellboy features. To be fair, Perlman made the role his own with Harbour stepping into those cinematic character boots and trying to find his own rhythm as Hellboy. To his credit, Harbour actually does a decent job in the role. Of course, the character build for Hellboy isn’t a wholesome and fully-rounded one, but Harbour finds a simplistic gruff charm with a few good moments that he can call his own. It works for the movie and generally I felt he was good in the role. Naturally, I prefer Perlman over Harbour, but, given how much of train wreck this movie is, Harbour acts as one of the “good things” to come out of this 2019 version and by good I mean adequately decent.

In more largely secondary roles are several characters that play a part of the narrative’ story….be it aiding Hellboy on his mission or to oppose him. Perhaps the strongest (and most memorable) in this group is the character of Nimue, the vile “Blood Queen” sorceresses, who is played by actress Milla Jovovich. Known for her roles in The Fifth Element, Aeon Flux, and Resident Evil, Jovovich seems to be having the most fun in the film as the movie’s villainess antagonist. To be sure, the character of Nimue isn’t exactly the most “creative” nor “imaginative” bad guy character to ever grace the big screen as she’s, more or less, a stereotypical cliché of an evil sorceress / queen archetype. However, given the very nature of Hellboy’s over-the-top fantasy tropes and nuances, the character build for the Blood Queen is a suitable fit, with Jovovich relishing and chewing threw her hammy dialogue with great glee. Plus, she definitely looks the part. Thus, in the end, Jovovich’s Nimue is probably the best character in the movie (and that’s quite disappointingly sad).

Behind her are the characters of Alice Monaghan and Ben Daimio, Hellboy’s two ally associates that aid him on his mission to stop Nimue, who are played by actress Sasha Lane (American Honey and Hearts Beat Loud) and actor Daniel Dae Kim (Lost and The Divergent Series: Insurgent) respectfully. While these two characters bring a sense of comradery / witty banter to the involvement character play of Hellboy, but these two are pretty much bland to the touch. Of course, both Alice and Ben have cool superpowers that are showcased in the film, but they feel like cardboard cutouts and Lane and Kim’s wooden performances don’t help elevate them. As a side-note, actor Ed Skerin was originally casted in the role of Ben Daimio, but exited from playing the role due to his feelings of a Caucasian actor (himself) playing a character that was Japanese American.

Then there is the character of Gruagach, a hog-like fairy who aids Nimue to exact revenge on Hellboy, who is voiced by Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and physical performance by Douglas Tait (Star Trek). Despite the character’s nuances, Gruagach just comes off as a flat and annoying evil henchmen cliché. The intent is there, but the character is ridiculous and pointless behind serving the narrative plot moments here and there. Totally uninteresting and forgetful. Lastly, actor Ian McShane (Deadwood and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum) fares the worst of this group as Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy’s adoptive father and the founder of the B.P.R.D. Personally, I love McShane as I think of him as a talented character actor, but his performance in this movie is rather dull. He’s not even likeable as Broom and just comes off as an arrogant caricature figure and doesn’t have nearly as much as fatherly warmth / guiding wisdom as actor John Hurt was able portrayed within the same character in Del Toro’s Hellboy.

Rounding out the cast, including actor Alistair Petrie (Rush and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as a high-ranking member of the Osiris Club Lord Adam Glaren, actress Sophie Okonedo (Aeon Flux and Hotel Rwanda) as the Osiris Club’s resident Seer Lady Hutton, actor Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3 and Sideways) as the infamous vigilante Lobster Johnson, actress Emma Tate (Horrid Henry) / actor Troy James (The Strain) as the voice / body work for the deadly one-eyed witch Baba Yaga, actress Penelope Mitchell (Hemlock Grove and The Vampire Diaries) as the witch who betrays Nimue Ganeida, actor Nitin Ganatra (Secrets & Lies and EastEnders) as August Swain, actor Mark Stanley (Run and Broken) as the legendary King Arthur of Camelot, and actor Brian Gleeson (Logan Lucky and Snow White and the Huntsman) as the fabled King Arthur wizard Merlin, make up the smaller / minor character roles in the feature. Much like the rest of the cast, these individuals, though talented from other past projects, are utterly “meh” throughout; offering bland performances from their respective thinly-written characters.

FINAL THOUGHTS


The Blood Queen Nimue has returned and is about to bring “Hell on Earth” and the only thing that stands in her way is the demonic half-breed creature (acting as the possible destroyer / defender for the human race) in the movie Hellboy. Director Neil Marshall’s feature film provides another cinematic take on Mike Mignola graphic novel’s demon-turned superhero character; sticking more closely to its source material and presenting a campy (and violent) fantasy adventure. Unfortunately, despite some visual flair in creature designs and nuances as well as a somewhat surprisingly decent performance from David Harbour (and a over-the-top cheesy performance from Jovovich), majority of the film is pretty much a letdown from a bland script / story, an inconsistent tone, a muddled plot, rushed narrative pieces, excessive gore / violence, terrible characterizations, a waste of acting talents, and just being downright uninspiringly entertaining to boot. Personally, I didn’t like this movie and it was just awfully bad movie (and not in the good way). Of course, I really didn’t think that Hellboy was gonna be grand or anything like that, but I still was expecting something a bit more fun and entertaining. To me, the movie was just a hodgepodge of ideas that really didn’t work; offering up a disappointing motion picture that felt devoid of energy and ultimately lifeless to the touch. Like I said, it definitely makes Del Toro’s two Hellboy movies (whether you liked them or not) feel like masterpieces. Thus, as you can imagine, my recommendation for this film is a solid “skip it” as there’s no really reason to see it…. even if you’re a fan of the Mignola’s creation. Given its poor reception, displeasing appeal to critics / moviegoers, and its weak box office results, it looks like the promised franchise tag for this new reboot / remake of “Big Red” is DOA (dead on arrival). Thus, when everything is said and done, Hellboy is just uber violent, uninterestingly boring, and messy failure that hardly inspires much cinematic entertainment value. All I have left to say is simply….to hell with this movie!

1.5 Out of 5 (Skip It)

 

Released On: April 12th, 2019
Reviewed On: June 1st, 2019

Hellboy is 121 minutes long and is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore throughout, and language

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