Hellboy (2019)

Demons have demons too.

Hellboy (David Harbour, Netflix's Stranger Things) heads to England to defeat Merlin's consort and Nimue the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) in this reboot of the superhero film series. But their battle will bring about the end of the world, a fate he desperately tries to turn away.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Action, Fantasy, Blockbuster

120mins

Rating: R18+ High impact violence, blood and gore

USA

It’s damn near impossible to set aside Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 and 2008 Hellboy films when watching this reboot. If one somehow could, this new effort would likely be considered an utter stinker anyway. A mess of studio attempt at teenage-friendly 'tude, constantly disappointing CGI, leaden performances and generally unenthusing action adds up to the sort of desperate misfire writers reach for in order to give context to the next one churned out of the sausage factory (yes, this could be the new Van Helsing).

Perhaps the movie’s come out of some time portal. Either that or makeup and prosthetic technology must have gone backwards in the past decade, since David Harbour’s face doesn’t work properly as Hellboy. Further adding to how incredibly dated this all seems, not only does Milla Jovovich play the villain, but has a henchman straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And, for the second film in the space of a week, an attempt is made to energise an action scene late in the movie by blaring Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart (to be fair, my favourite up-tempo number about a heroin overdose).

Director Neil Marshall has turned in some pretty good work in the past, most notably The Descent and some above-average episodes of Game of Thrones, which on paper seem a great fit for Hellboy. As you can conclude from the preceding paragraphs, that is sadly not the case, Marshall’s grasp on an all-over-the-place muddled rush of nonsensical narrative eluding him, and his normally good eye for set pieces absent in sequences veering from confused to boring to video game cut-scene or all of the above. He does, however, display a knack for cruel violence exacted on innocent civilians, which at least offers some grim semblance of stakes as apocalyptic events come into view.

What del Toro pulled off visually on his relatively small budgets was astonishing, and if there’s one good thing about this film, it’s that it confirms this. He also gave Hellboy a heart that is completely MIA here. From the opening moments, 2019’s Hellboy makes it clear that this is not trying to be the same kind of film, and the disappointment only grows from there. So why they’d ever retell the character’s occult origin and create a direct comparison to del Toro is completely beyond me—perhaps they needed this to get to a designated quota of flashbacks, littered throughout the film in some of the laziest storytelling you’ll see for some time. At least until the next sh-t sausage comes out of the factory.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

press

Expecting bugger all, I still came out of this Hellboy feeling let down. This is a lazy and demonstrably inferior remake of a film that was a true original.

New York Times

press

"The end is coming," Hellboy's dying friend says near the beginning, and I was already thinking, "Oh yes, please."

Total Film (UK)

press

Hellish, more like.

Empire (UK)

press

Plenty of shock and gore, and David Harbour is more than worthy to wear the horns. But this is a reboot in need of a reboot.

The Guardian

press

For all the badass attitude and the CGI mini-apocalypses he strides through, this Hellboy is lacking. He is more of a Heckboy: a banal action-movie figure without the unexpected likability of his previous iteration.

FilmInk (Australia)

press

... a few good gore gags and a monster or two can't disguise the dearth of imagination on display here....

TimeOut (New York)

press

It's two hours long but feels like an eternity, lurching incoherently from one noisy set-piece to another.

2019 is clearly the year for destroying great films with sub-par remakes

I'm sorry but I'm going to come straight out of the gates and say, what an absolute disappointment this was. Having recently rewatched the Ron Perlman/Guillermo del Toro's iteration, I thought I knew what I was in for. Boy, was I wrong.

It wasn't all bad though. From a costuming and visual standpoint, David Harbour's iteration of Anung Un Rama (a.k.a Hellboy) looks great. It's like he lost all of the puppy fat from Perlman's version and buffed himself up to the extreme, ending up with a longer, larger face (accentuated by very small eyes hidden under a very prominent brow), and some impressive looking musculature. A grittier shade of red, it matches the overall personality of Harbour's Hellboy, which is much more downtrodden, bitter, and surprisingly, not all that likeable. Most likely because the level of prosthetics in his face did not allow for much in the way of facial expressions.

With an R-rating, they try to take advantage of that with gratuitous gore, creative deaths of character (with excessive amounts of CGI blood), and as many expletives as they can fit into the dialogue, even fitting Milla Jovovich into a top that is so open that a gust of wind will have her nipples out for the world to see. It adds to the fun of the film but doesn't add much to the content of the film with no emotional connections to any of the characters.

The film does try to stand on its own feet providing its own version of Hellboy's origin story (unfortunately we only get a quick peek at Kroenen) and reusing one of the main themes from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I wish I could say that a similar plot was the only downfall of the movie, but there is oh so much more.

If you have read my reviews from the previous two Hellboy movies you will know that I believe practical effects are superior (because visually they are more realistic) and they were the main aspect that has made those films stand the test of time. Hellboy (2019) has gone ahead and put in as much CGI as possible, and a day before it's official release it already looks dated. From the abilities and looks of his team to 90% of the villains and enemies in the film, so much CGI has been used and combine that with excessive use of shaky cam and a very in-your-face soundtrack, you get unwatchable and deafening action scenes.

I loved the Resident Evil movie franchise. It quickly became very corny, but I thought Milla Jovovich did a convincing job in her role as Alice. In this film, however, her role as the Blood Queen Nimue is far less convincing. There was no sense of threat or power with her character. With some pretty generic dialogue and an unconvincing execution, Jovovich looks like she has phoned in her performance, and gives the movie a cheesiness right from the opening scene.

You can't really blame Jovovich though, because the writing was very poor. An incredibly convoluted plot, that makes less and less sense the more you think about it. Some people in the cinema were asking whether there had been a previous movie that they had missed that might explain some of what was going on, but the reality is that the film's own plot contradicts itself. It builds towards a climax that again has provided no real sense of threat, no sense of scale or limitations, and yet the writers still seem to have written themselves into a corner, making up abilities and plot devices to find resolution in a story that makes very little sense.

I had high hopes for a more mature Hellboy film seeing as this was R-rated. But we got a mish-mash of the 2004 and 2008 films with less likeable characters, a convoluted mess of a plot, minimal practical effects and a lot of unnecessary cursing. Just rewatch Guillermo del Toro's films.