Its been 11 years since the big red rogue known as Hellboy was last on our screens. Opting for a reboot, Lionsgate turned to Neil Marshal (Dog Soldiers, Doomsday) for directing duties and David Harbour (Stranger Things) to don the horns with an all-star cast at his side featuring Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil), Ian McShane (American Gods), Stephen Graham (This is England) and Brian Gleeson (Harry Potter). But can Hellboy find a place among the current comic book craze on our big screens? Let’s take a look.
We kick things off with a touch of backstory, set thousands of years ago, The Blood Queen is tricked and defeated by non-other than King Arthur (yes that one) and Merlin atop Pendle Hill, thus driving the demons into hiding. Being an immortal Witch though, a simple defeat will not do the trick so Arthur has her dismembered, her body parts locked in chests and buried in 6 locations across England to ensure she cannot resurrect.
Bringing things forward to the modern day we find that Rocksteady has grown tired of fighting teenage turtles and seeks to collect all 6 chests and resurrect The Blood Queen in return for power. Summoned to Jolly Old to help out with a troll problem, Hellboy soon finds himself meeting new enemies, allies, Moe from EastEnders and primarily aiming to stop The Blood Queen from unleashing hell on earth.
Usual clichés aside this results in around 2 hours of messy plot lines, bigger plot holes, bad acting and middle of the road CGI. The main story itself is sloppy at best and provides absolutely no buy-in for the audience, despite a few attempts to gain traction by providing some second-guessing moments for the audience. These attempts are telegraphed and too obvious that there was never any doubt this was ever going to become anything other than a hero saves the day affair. Maybe if the script was not so full of tiny subplots, some of which would have actually made a pretty good full story themselves, then the core plot could have been given a chance to flesh out a bit more and gain investment. All these subplots and mini stories that kept cropping up and leading nowhere took up too much movie time that I didn’t even give a shit about the grand climax that built up like a wet fart on a hot day and dispersed just as quickly.
It’s hard to say if such a terrible script was the cause of that much bad acting, I wouldn’t go as far as to say David Harbour phones it in as the titular Hellboy but his performance lacked any form of originality. Overall it felt like watching someone cosplay as Ron Perlman’s version and in doing so brought nothing new to the proceedings. Having seen his acting abilities in several movies he certainly had the potential and clearly put in the gym time to get in shape for the part which beg’s the question, where did it go wrong? A handful of side characters made things worse and cheapened the already lacklustre plot by providing amateur hour line delivery primarily compiled of the same gags that must have been written by an obnoxious 14-year old that watches too much reality TV rendering both these sidekicks as nothing more than screen filler instead of self-sustained entities within the movies universe.
Thankfully there were a few rays of light in the cast, Ian McShane was…..well he was Ian McShane, but performed to such a level that it’s almost like he was in on the joke that was the horrendous script and just chose to have fun with it. Playing Hellboy’s adoptive father he was amusingly sarcastic and brought a nice amount of grounding to the events when required. Milla Jovovich was also great in her role as The Blood Queen, portraying a villain that was not without relatability and delivered some solid emotion to key scenes. Sadly, her story was pretty much that of Prince Nuada from The Golden Army to really become engaging enough to roll with. Another nod needs to go to the creature design that sadly again was let down by minimum screen time. Although they were mostly rendered in CGI which is pretty much the norm these days, this selection of hellspawn looked nightmarish, ghastly, unique from each other and right out of a marriage between Clive Barker and From Software, praise the sun! and the end credits.
With the saturation of Marvel and DC on the silver screen, it’s great to see some of the lesser known and more unique characters getting another crack and glory, but a rush to fit in with the big boys was clearly the downfall of this hopefull reboot. With too many plot points going on and no time to expand or develop nor deliver believable characters this latest entry in the Hellboy universe just felt like a mess, albeit one that was full of potential. Had they opted to go for a Prime or Netflix series with this script the result could have been much better instead of leaving us with what felt like a fan-made film that Michael Bay got his hands on in the editing room. Hopefully Hollywood will one day realise that sometimes less is more when setting up a franchise. If you are a Hellboy fan, then you are better off sticking to the old movies and the comic book pages for now.