Hellboy probably isn’t the most well-known superhero comic around. To be more specific, Hellboy is an anti-hero, much like Deadpool, Punisher and Spawn. Having first appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con in August 1993, the characrer has gained quite a large following in the community, which became more mainstream after the first two live-action films in 2004 and 2008 starring Ron Perlman and directed by Guillermo del Toro.
To explain the character and stories in its simplest form is that Hellboy was summoned from Hell to Earth as a baby by the Nazi occult, but who is rescued by the Allied Forces and raised to help fight for the BPRD to fend off the paranormal demons and monsters who continually attack our realm.
The 2019 reboot follows the same basic premise as almost all stories he’s been involved in. But there is a bit of a twist. Or, at least, an attempt at one. The film starts off with a voiceover from Ian McShane, who plays Professor Broom of the BPRD, as he sets up the basis of the film. Shot in stylised black and white, we witness scenes from the 6th century when the likes of King Arthur, Merlin and a few rogue witches double-cross the Blood Queen Nimue, who aims to unleash a plague to destroy humans. Nimue is decapitated with the legendary Excalibur, and further cut up with her limbs and torso placed into boxes and blessed by priests to create a holy seal, then scattered across various parts of Europe, hoping never to be made whole again to restore her powers.
It seems interesting enough, and with McShane’s raspy voice, it all sets up the movie reasonably well, albeit with a sense of “I’ve seen this movie before.”
We then meet Hellboy, played by David Harbour, for the first time, in yet another of his missions to bring in or kill a monster/demon. And so the film goes, along the way revealing various parts of Hellboy’s backstory in numerous flashbacks and expositions.
The opening stanza of the film doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, with humour and action going hand-in-hand. While I went into the film wondering if it would be good enough to kickstart another franchise, at this point, I felt comfortable that they may be onto something here. But, no sooner than I started to enjoy the film, the rug was pulled out from under me as everything fell apart.
Between all the expository flashbacks and almost as many foreshadowing, the film falls in on itself. Everything in Hellboy seems to build up to a mass of nothingness. Whenever a character is introduced to the film or a background story is unfolded, it’s just as quickly forgotten and never brought back up again.
In one instance, a character is literally brought into the story to explain a small piece of the puzzle, only to vanish into a puff of dust for absolutely no reason. I find it difficult to put into words or try to make sense of how all of this could be so senselessly put together.
To make matters worse, the dialogue then also starts to suffer and I’m left to cringe my way through more than an hour worth of the abovementioned.
For a list of boxes blessed by priests, I found it strange how easily they were able to be both tracked down and then opened, without so much as anyone in pursuit of the thief. The thief himself is a humanoid boar who walks upright and has some pretty impressive skills, such as swallowing a human larynx and being able to mimic their voice to recite the sacred words to open the sealed boxes.
For a character that doesn’t seem very bright, how he manages to single-handedly manage to collect all Nimue’s body parts back together again is beyond me. The fact that we don’t get to see most of it is a testament to the point that not much thought had been put into it.
The film is very violent and even more gory. At times I could hear the shock as people gasped at some of the scenes, which included a sword to the head, stick in the eye as well as some puss heavy moments. At first, this was still quite acceptable as it was early in the movie and somewhat enjoyable. However, as the movie started to dry out, so did the overuse of gore. Even the score seems amiss in the various action scenes, throwing viewers right out of the experience that was already a struggle to watch.
What’s most surprising about Hellboy is that most of those involved have a fairly solid reputation. Director Neil Marshall is credited with directing episodes from mainstream series such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, Lost in Space, Black Sails and even Hannibal. The film’s script is written by Andrew Cosby, who is also credited with writing for Eureka and Haunted, both solid enough shows. Then there are the likes of Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane and David Harbour, who’s well-known for his appearances on Stranger Things. Mixed in among all of this are the great visuals every so often. That in itself was a bit confusing, as sometimes the scenery and CGI are quite solid in one scene, only for the very next scene to set back modern advancements in computer graphics some 10 years or so.
I’ll be honest, when I watched del Toro’s Hellboy at the theatre, I wasn’t blown away by any performance or storyline, but it was tolerable at the worst of times and enjoyable in parts. I would never have guessed that I would miss the original films, as I haven’t thought about them for the best part of a decade.
The 2019 reboot of Hellboy is easily the worst film I’ve seen at the theatre this year. It may not be the worst movie that will be released this year but is most likely set to remain on top of my list until year-end.
Hellboy is a mix of all that's bad about modern-day movies, relying on reputation and cliches, which fails to captivate audiences.