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‘Hellboy’ (2019, review)

Produced by Lawrence Gordon,
Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson,
Philip Westgren, Carl Hampe,
Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner

Screenplay by Andrew Cosby
Based on Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Directed by Neil Marshall
Starring David Harbour, Milla Jovovich,
Ian McShane, Sasha Lane,
Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church

 

Hellboy, the newly rebooted film of the fan favorite comic book created by Mike Mignola tries to take the franchise in a darker and more violent direction, garnering an R-rating to boot.

Did it help?

I think not.  By taking away the dance of fun and humor that rounds out the Hellboy universe you have effectively lobotomized the demon and the paranormal agency he works for to protect us.

For those of you who don’t know, Hellboy is a demon that the Nazis conjured to help them win WWII. He was taken after the Nazis were defeated by a Professor Bruttenholm and taught to fight demons for the forces of good. A member of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Development) he works to rid the earth of demons and other otherworldly beings.

This film focuses on the Blood Queen, Nimue and her efforts to spread a plague throughout the world to bring utter darkness so that the creatures of the underworld can live on the surface of the Earth and claim their rightful dominion. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. must stop her while trying to keep Hellboy’s inner demon from being unleashed to assist her.

Sounds like a really cool Hellboy movie right?

Well, it is definitely not. The story is a great idea. The execution of it was an uneven and unadulterated mess of a movie. The few good moments were drowned out by the unequivocally terrible ones.

Lets first talk about what worked so this review isn’t a total downer.

David Harbor is a very fine choice to succeed Ron Perlman as the demon boy turned demon fighter. His delivery was great and he really got the character. He has the right gruffness to heart ratio needed to play Hellboy.

Ian McShane was a really well cast Prof. Bruttenholm. His no nonsensical, deadpan delivery and “Ian McShane-ness” really lends itself to the character. He is great, if not underused.

There was also one surprise cameo character that made me literally yell “F*CK YES!” really loud at the screening, making the other reviewers turn around and look at me like a crazy person. Obviously, they don’t know to “Beware of the Claw”.

There were a couple of moments like that throughout the film where I thought, “Oh hey, okay, NOW they get it.” Then, those moments are followed by some terrible music soundtrack queues, awful writing and jarring editing.

This film, as I stated, is a mess. The writing is all over the place. It didn’t know whether it wanted to be a comedy, a horror movie, or a sci-fi fantasy film. Normally you can be all of those and do them well. There are tons of examples of films like that that have worked, this Hellboy is not one of them. Hell, Milla Jovavich starred in like eleven-teen Resident Evil movies and those films are brilliant. Yes. I just said that. Don’t @ me.

Speaking of Milla, it was sad seeing her seem to “phone in” her performance in this film. I mean, they didn’t give her a lot to work with, but she definitely looked and felt like she was not into it and didn’t own the role like she has in the past with characters such as Leeloo or Alice from the previously mentioned Resident Evil series.

The writing was definitely to blame for the disjointed film and the fact it had no heart. Hellboy, the character and the comic, has a ton of heart. When done correctly Hellboy can beat the crap out of a demon, yell and scream and scare the living sh*t out of you, and in the next breath be a warm and sweet kitty-lover, cracking jokes. At no point was he a sympathetic protagonist in this film. Mostly, I just wanted him to shut up and stop bitching.

This film, unlike the two preceding films was NOT written by Mike Mignola, and it very much shows. Writer Andrew Crosby, writer on the television show Eureka tries to “get it” with this, his first major motion picture script.

His Hellboy film comes across more like the ravings of a 13 year old, Red Bull and Pixie-Stix fueled, metal head kid who thinks blood and gore are rad, heard about Hellboy from the nerds in the cafeteria while he was stealing their lunch money. Crosby has replaced all the cool occult and fantastical demons and imaginative storytelling with blood and guts and a couple of orcs, oh, and frog-looking creatures. Later, finally throws in one or two semi-cool demons.

My other big issue with the film was that most of the makeup and effects done to Harbor to turn him into Hellboy were amateur hour. I had originally thought they hired him because his looks and physique, much like Ron Perlman before him, suited him to play Hellboy with only a slight amount of prosthetics needed to turn him into the demonic hero. They layered so much makeup and prosthetics on his noggin that his eyes are literally 2 inches set back onto his skull and you can see his real lips moving behind the inch or silicone packed onto of them. It was really distracting. I couldn’t help but think the 1985 film Legend did it a million times better with Tim Curry as Lord Darkness.

Look. I get it. Trying to follow Guillermo del Toro’s two entries in the Hellboy franchise was an unfair thing to make the director of Doomsday and the writer of Eureka try to live up to. Here is the thing though. They had a perfectly great blueprint to go by.

Why reboot? Why not just continue the story? The first Hellboy captured the feel and world of Hellboy perfectly. The second film was a little more del Toro than Mignola, but really is that a bad thing? They kinda mesh well in my humble opinion. This whole reinventing the wheel when they original wheel is perfectly fine is getting ridiculous.

In the end, not even comparing it to the del Toro’s Hellboy films, this film misses the mark in a lot of ways. All I can really say is that it felt “off”.

It looks like a Hellboy film. It has some of the characters from the comic book in it. Yet, I sat through most of the film thinking, “What is going on? Why are they doing that? Why are they acting that way? Boy, that’s a choice you could make. So, that happened. Oh good, two after credit scenes.”

I think the moral of this film is: Don”t fix what isn’t broken when just adding onto the existing structure would be much more effective.

 

 

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