When Nimue (Milla Jovovich), a centuries old witch, is resurrected, Hellboy (David Harbour) and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense race to find the fabled Excalibur, the only weapon capable of defeating Nimue, before she unleashes her forces on the Earth.
As a cinefile, I can usually find something to appreciate in every film I watch. As a movie reviewer, I don’t like bashing any film. When I watch a film, I watch it for my own enjoyment, not to critique it or find its flaws. Unfortunately for this reboot of Mike Mignola’s popular comic book character, I found very little to enjoy in Hellboy. From the get-go, it’s clear that this is going to be a different Hellboy movie than the two directed by Guillermo del Toro. Which is good. When rebooting a series, some of the most successful ones are usually tonally different. While this iteration definitely feels different, it is also a mess.
One thing I actually did like about this reboot is that it just jumped right into the world of Hellboy. In a way, it reminds me of a movie like Inception where it drops the audience into the world without hand-holding the them. However, there is not much world-building in Hellboy. There is plenty of exposition sprinkled throughout the film to give backstory to protagonist and antagonist but it is the bare minimum. I didn’t feel like there was enough to care about Hellboy, the relationship between him and his father, or the villain, whose justification for wanting to destroy humans is because of reasons. The experience felt like watching a sequel when I didn’t watch the first film.
The plot also unnecessarily convoluted. Hellboy travels from location to location and characters appear and disappear seemingly on a whim, creating a whirlwind pace for the film. Hellboy feels like it’s moving along yet still somehow manages to drag on. As I mentioned before, there was a plot thread focused on the relationship between Hellboy and his father, Professor Broom, played by the criminally underutilized Ian McShane. There was very little time invested into this thread and as a result, when this thread came to a head, I didn’t feel any emotion. And this isn’t just limited to Hellboy and Broom but also Hellboy and all of the supporting characters. Since the story jumps around and characters come and go, no relationships are built. David Harbour does a good job as the titular character but it doesn’t matter when there is no one around long enough to work with.
This film is rated R (NC-17) and takes full advantage of it. Every shooting or stabbing creates rivers of blood and gore that would make Quentin Tarantino jealous. Now, I’m not one to criticize a movie for being violent. I revel in movies that aren’t afraid to be bloody and gory… as long as it works for the context of the film and it makes sense to do so. That isn’t the case here. It felt like it was being gruesome for gruesome’s sake. Of course, it didn’t help that the CGI was atrocious, which only made things look worse. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm, the movie was so preoccupied with whether or not it could that it didn’t stop to think if it should.
I thought Hellboy was BAD 😦 I wanted to like this film, especially as a fan of the del Toro Hellboy films, but this is just a mess of a film. Character relationships weren’t properly built, the story was stifled in favor of action, and the CGI is comparable to a late 90s or early 2000s film. If this is considered closer to the comics adaptation of Hellboy, I’ll take my further from the comics adaptation back, please.
Cast & Crew
Neil Marshall – Director
Andrew Cosby – Screenplay
Benjamin Wallfisch – Composer
David Harbour – Hellboy
Ian McShane – Professor Broom
Milla Jovovich – Nimue / The Blood Queen
Sasha Lane – Alice Monaghan
Daniel Dae Kim – Major Ben Daimio
Alistair Petrie – Lord Adam Glaren
Sophie Okonedo – Lady Hatton
Troy James – Baba Yaga
Emma Tate – Baba Yaga (voice)
Mark Stanley – Arthur
Brian Glesson – Merlin
Penelope Mitchell – Ganeida
Thomas Haden Church – Lobster Johnson
Markos Rounthwaite – Grigori Rasputin
Joel Harlow – Von Krupt