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There’s lots of talk these days about the gap between critics hating on tentpole movies and audiences loving those same movies being the widest it has been. Some critics are claiming that this rebooted version of Hellboy is the worst comic book movie to ever be made. But like Maury Povich before me, I am here to tell you that that is a lie! Frankly, how could this be the worst comic book movie ever made when movies like Halle Berry’s Catwoman or the infamous Batman & Robin exist!?
This Hellboy is the third adaptation of the graphic novel series created by Mike Mignola and published through Dark Horse Comics. The first two were directed by Guillermo Del Toro, as part of a trilogy. However, the third movie was never made and any plot lines that were left over will never come to a conclusion. Don’t feel too bad for Del Toro, as he went on to become a multi-time Oscar winner. This new version of Hellboy was directed by Neil Marshall, director of such horror flicks as Dog Soldiers and The Descent. In Del Toro’s movies, Hellboy (or if you’re going by his demon name, Anung Un Rama) was played by Ron Perlman, who is Del Toro’s go-to character actor of choice, This time around, he’s played by David Harbour, who everyone knows as Sheriff Hopper from Netflix’s Stranger Things.
Our story begins during Arthurian Times (yes, King Arthur plays a major role in this movie), in which Arthur, along with Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, confront Nimue, The Blood Queen (played to wicked perfection by Milla Jovovich). She’s a witch who wants to destroy humanity, but Arthur defeats her by using Excalibur. He then hacks her into pieces, places each piece in a box, and has the boxes hidden throughout England. We then flash forward to modern day, as Hellboy, his adopted father, Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane), and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense teams up with the likes of Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), in order to stop Nimue from being resurrected. Needless to say, numerous monsters, demons, and other supernatural beings are highly interested in Hellboy failing, resulting in him and his allies having to fight off these otherworldly threats.
While I believe that Ron Perlman did the Hellboy character justice in the first two movies, Harbour does well for himself in the role as well. Perlman had a more expressive face, but Harbour is better at capturing the confliction that Hellboy has to deal with, as a demon who kills other monsters, but is feared by the very humans that he works with. Trevor Bruttenholm was originally played by John Hurt in the Del Toro movies, and I think he did a better job as a fatherly figure than McShane did here. While Hurt played the role as a wise man, McShane is more like a wise guy, not in the mobster sense, but as a guy who is often complaining with or using heavy sarcasm towards the people around him. Except for one emotionally touching scene between him and Hellboy, you don’t see much of a loving relationship between the two of them. Perhaps this was intentional, as Hellboy is supposed to be like a teenager, and we all know how teenagers are around their parents, and how quickly parents get tired of said teenagers’ mood swings.
As I mentioned before, Jovovich is absolutely wicked as Nimue. Not only is she easy on the eyes, but she always has an eeriness to her, like she wants to lure you in, but you’ll live to regret it. While she’s by no means one of the greatest movie villains in modern memory, she is clearly having fun in the role. It took me awhile to like Alice Monaghan and Ben Daimio, not because Lane and Kim were giving bad performances, but because I was missing Hellboy’s original partners, Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien (played by Selma Blair and Doug Jones, respectfully). However, the new characters grew on me, once they were given backstories, and we see them in battle; their superpowers are quite badass. Lastly, there’s Thomas Haden Church, who appears as Lobster Johnson. It’s a smaller role, but it’s a ton of golden age, comic book style goodness.
Other than the cast, I found myself enjoying the movie’s story. While the pacing is at a breakneck speed, I did love that we got plenty of plot, as we’re quickly moved from one scene and situation to the next. There’s no wasted moments, as each situation gives us important information and world building. As good as Del Toro’s movies were, I didn’t care for extensive scenes of comedy, such as Hellboy spying on Liz during a date with another BPRD agent, or him drunkenly singing love songs with Abe. There’s none of that here. The creature designs were also impressive, providing us with imagery that look as if they were ripped from the most frightening of nightmares. The makeup effects and production design were also top notch, especially Hellboy’s new design, which looks more realistic and flesh-like than the more plasticky Perlman design. I also welcomed the “R” rating, as the concept of Hellboy certainly isn’t one that screams of family friendliness. The bloody gore definitely feels like it belongs.
There are a few problems though. While the makeup and creature designs are awe inspiring, the CGI was hit or miss. The biggest miss being near the end of the movie, as giant monsters are rampaging through London. Yes, they’re all haunting sights to behold, but the CGI could have been rendered more so they would seem more life-like. The way these events appeared, it was as though they were in a cut scene from a video game, rather than something happening in the real world. The dialogue could have also been better. The use of f-bombs feels unnecessary and unwarranted. It’s as if they’re only said because they can be said due to the “R” rating. Most of the jokes fall flat or they lack any charm to them. Not that the humor in Del Toro’s movies was any better, but at least the charm was there. And as I said before, while I enjoyed the movie packing in as much plot as possible, it could have been paced just a bit slower, so we can soak everything in. This is another advantage of Del Toro’s movies, as he knew when to slow things down and have his camera linger on important scenes, so we got a fully formed concept of what happened. And while Del Toro’s movies were full of wholly original imagery, this movie steals some visuals from the likes of Sleepy Hollow, The Haunting in Connecticut, and Predator. While not overtly obvious, you might get a nagging sense of “wait, I’ve seen that done before” in the back of your mind.
Over all, I give Hellboy a solid three out of five stars. While Del Toro’s movies are a bit more artsy, this one certainly is the most fun. While the CGI and humor could have used more work, the characters, plotting, and action made up for it. If you’re a fan of horror based comedies like Ghostbusters, then this is a movie for you. I suggest seeing it in theaters, but only at matinee prices. And if it’s to your liking, by all means, buy it on physical disk for your home entertainment collection. That concludes this fan picked review. And remember, when it comes to the media that you consume, be like Indiana Jones, and chose wisely.
Pros: Good performances by David Harbour and Milla Jovovich.
Great action sequences.
Great creature designs and makeup effects.
“R” rating is (mostly) appropriate.
Cons: CGI could have been better.
Humor often falls flat.
Pacing could have been slower.
Imagery that is too similar to other movies.
Verdict: *** (three out of five stars).