If watching Hellboy (2019) over and over again is what hell looks like, then I will seriously consider avoiding even the smallest sin in my life.
The newest take on the foul-mouthed, hellish super hero brings the protagonist fighting an evil witch Nimue (Mila Jovovich). As she is about to unleash the unspeakable evil on Earth, Hellboy (David Harbour), along with Alice (Sasha Lane) and Major Ben Daimio(Daniel Dae Kim), has to stop her at all costs.
I was a kid when Guillermo Del Toro’s “Hellboy” hit the cinemas. It might be a faded memory, but I can still see the joyful practical effects, mixed with the vivid, visual artistry of the film. It was ferociously creative, managing to turn a silly story into a fairy tale for both the small and the big ones.
Del Toro doubled on the no-hands-on-the -wheel fun in the follow-up called “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”. Just as magically colourful as its predecessor, this second installment in Del Toro’s planned trilogy was a triumph of a fairy tale over dark, brooding tone of the source material. It’s a second ace in the hole though some thought otherwise.
This, however, is the past. We’ve entered the era of “Hellboy” from a real cinematic hell.
The 2019’s reboot was advertised as the film that would disdain the two previous films – not only story-wise, but also stylistically. The director Neil Marshall (whose biggest achievement so far was “Descent”, a claustrophobic horror movie) disclosed in an interview that his take on Hellboy was supposed to be much edgier – basically an R-rated movie for die-hard comic book fans.
The shift to an R-rated superhero movies is understandable. After the immense success of “Deadpool”, and some major complaints about the childishness of previous superhero classics (like “The Dark Knight” and its PG-13), big studios are opening up to an idea of letting the heroes drop f-bombs, slit throats and sip Hennessy.
However, what made Deadpool so lovingly charming, turns “Hellboy” into a slaughterhouse… of its audience.
Marshall’s movie is too loud, too loose, too corny and too everything. It screams for the badge of the worst film of 2019 already.
David Harbour, hidden under the blazing-red costume of Hellboy, kicks off with a blast – a wrestling fight in Mexico that quickly turns into an attempt at taming his former partner, who accidentally became a vampire (a clear reference to El Santo, a kind of superhero who ruled the Mexican B-movie market back in the 60s and 70s). After a few minutes of demolition, Hellboy’s given a few minutes of rest.
This, however, doesn’t apply to the audience, because Andrew Cosby (the screenwriter behind “Hellboy”) frantically throws new characters, new threads to his plot, new flashbacks and stuff that gives you a headache. There is enough room to fit in a nazi shaman, a random British “superhero” called Captain Lobster (wait what now?) and a corny crossbreed between a werewolf and a wild hog. By the time the end credits roll, you’ll also witness zombies, witches, surreal worlds, and speaking ghosts.
If this was all dipped in a more sarcastic tone – similar to what we’ve seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy” – “Hellboy” might’ve been rescued. But Marshall means his film to be all but a joke. The agenda of “let’s make Hellboy great again” overflows like a river that floods its whole embankment. But if you hoped to enjoy the view of that river, you should be prepared to swim in its muddy waters.
Okay, but what exactly is wrong with Marshall’s take on Hellboy?
One of the many sins of this reboot is its abundance of disposable characters. The director of “Hellboy” (2019) isn’t cautiosuly building the world filled with hellish creatures that are unleashed with dark magic. Marshall deploys an army of weird monsters, but their existence adds little to the bigger canvas. Almost none of the characters makes you feel this whole undertaking is worth your time.
This is also true for Hellboy himself. You see, Hellboy isn’t cool, because he’s cool. Both Cosby and Marshall tell you to think that Hellboy is cool. Period. Kudos to Ron Perlman though, because David Harbour lacks his chutzpah – he seems vaguely interested in this character. Harbour’s burnt-out even before his massive hands get all dirty in the script.
Then there are the bad guys.
It’s either the CGI-engineered flocks of forgettable creatures or Mila Jovovich as Nimue who is neither scary nor memorable. She’s just there, just as annoying as anything else in this film.
Only Sasha Lane, known best for her magnificent debut in “American Honey”, showcases anything likeable as Hellboy’s sidekick. There’s also Daniel Day Kim, a typical soldier type, who serves the same purpose as Rocket does to Star Lord in “Guardians of the Galaxy”. However, Cosby’s dialogues are quite not as sharp.
There’s also the issue of soundtrack, which recycles garage rock like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or rock classics in the same way that “Suicide Squad” did. Cool songs are desecrated one after another. Without the story to back it all up, a character you root for and a world you want to explore, even the best tracks sound soulless.
At some point of the film, I started thinking who actually needed this atrocity to be made. In the era when Marvel and DC Comics reach to their depths, bringing its second- and third-league heroes to big screen, reboots aren’t trendy anymore. On top of that, topping Del Toro’s guilty pleasure was a breakneck challenge. The size of this disaster makes me wish I sometimes reconsider spending my time better – there has to be a better way of spending two hours than dragging yourself to the deepest pit of crap.
Dir. Neil Marshall
Hate Grade: 9/10