Hellboy returns in a brand new Del Toro free, R-rated reboot with Stranger Things actor David Harbour in the titular role. Del Toro's Hellboy films are some of my favorite comic book films out there, so I was both skeptical and interested in what an R-rated reboot could look like. Especially with director Neil Marshall (The Descent) at the helm and the really fun redband trailer that was released. Sadly, if any movie is deserving of the tagline "Sometimes, Dead is Better,” it's this shoddy, cheap reboot and character in any future sequel.
What happened? Like, really? What is this? It feels like a 4-hour movie that was trimmed down to 2. You'd think 2 hours would be long enough to get the point of the story across and give us characters that we AT LEAST understand, but NOPE! Instead, we have a movie that tries to cover as much Hellboy lore as possible without having any form of direction or pacing. It's so brutally fast at times with its exposition dumps (which there are a lot of) that I was getting whiplash. I haven't seen a comic book film this mismanaged since Fant4stic, and it’s a damn shame because I still believe Neil Marshall is a terrific director. However, this won't gain him any new fans. That's for sure.
The plot revolves around Hellboy (David Harbour), who has to fight an evil sorceress (Milla Jovovich) to save the world while simultaneously discovering his own dark origins. Sounds simple, but as I said above, it's not. The pacing for this movie is spectacularly fast. It goes from scene to scene in a breakneck speed without much time for actual plot development. This could've been remedied by having a steady and focused script that cared for its characters and story, and if it didn't feel the need to have a dump truck load of exposition, comic references, and lore building moments that really don't pay off. Instead, characters will walk into frame, spout information, and walk off the screen never to be seen again. Some backstories for main characters are shown as 20-second flashbacks as if the movie didn't even care about them. Even the main character Hellboy seems like an afterthought at times. The only thing that almost works is the relationship between him and his adoptive father (Ian McShane). They obviously wanted this movie to be the bloody alternative to an MCU movie, but it just doesn't work well enough, mainly because of its incredibly weak story.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The acting, for the most part, is quite good with David Harbour and Ian McShane being the highlights. Harbour has been a favorite of mine ever since I saw End of Watch and he does his best to sell the terrible material given to him. Problem is, Hellboy as a character is the worst he's ever been. That includes the original two films and the direct to video animated movies. They spend WAY too much time giving Hellboy random things to do (ex. kill giants, fight a Luchadore vampire, eat pizza) when they could've been fleshing out his character and making us care about him. He's an outcast that fights to save humanity even though humans consider him a monster. It should've been easy, but NOPE! They were too busy making puns and telling terrible jokes to be bothered with that. The rest of the cast ranges from passable to decent, but none of the side characters get much screen time to develop. Just some quick cutaway scenes to show why certain characters have the powers that they have. We don't get to know anyone as people. Just why they can transform into Jaguars and how they can talk to ghosts. It's very apparent that the "cool" factor was more important than having a cast of interesting characters.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Loud noises mixed with scenes accompanied with pop music to give you the sense that you're watching a fun superhero movie (Suicide Squad anyone?), and a forgettable score that doesn't do justice to the character. I mean, seriously? You couldn't create some badass metal music for a character named HELLBOY? Just throw on the soundtrack of the game DOOM and pretend it's about Hellboy I suppose.
The visual effects are such a mixed bag. The makeup and practical creature effects are all superb, and even rival Del Toro's movies in some aspects. Hellboy's design and makeup were a little more comic accurate than the original movies, and Harbour carried himself well with the mountains of prosthetics glued to him. The Baba Yaga scene was truly nightmarish and one of the few moments where it earned its R-rating. I even liked some of the designs of the CGI'd creations in the movie, as Baba Yaga's moving house was a major highlight. Sadly, the CGI itself is some of the cheapest I've seen in a comic book film to date. Actually, the CGI is so cartoonish, I thought I was watching one of those Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. I understand that they had to use CGI for some of the bigger in-scale creatures but I’d rather they went smaller scale, kept the practical, and even focused on more intimate action besides the loud, quick cut, and overly reliant on violence action we got instead. Although, I did enjoy the visual of Hellboy with a flaming sword flying on an undead dragon. I'll give them kudos for making that look neat.
It's very apparent that Lionsgate wanted their Deadpool. An R-rated superhero film with plenty of irreverent gags that'll make tons of money just because it's an R-rated superhero movie. Well, it didn't work out. Hellboy bombed at the box office, got pulverized by critics, and is being forgotten by audience members. While I did have a fun time laughing at some of its inadequacies, I can't recommend Hellboy for anyone. Especially not fans of the terrific Del Toro ones. I'd give this one a hard pass and just wait for Avengers or go and see Shazam! again.