Hellboy Review

The Plot

Demonic hero Hellboy faces off against a host of wonderfully weird and deadly magical creatures when a centuries old witch called the Blood Queen, returns seeking vengeance by destroying all mankind.

The Good

Hellboy remains an absurdly fun character so the mere existence of this film should at least remind younger comic book fans to check out Mike Mignola’s iconic artwork. Despite having achieved critical fame and modest fan devotion, Guillermo del Toro’s film versions largely failed to succeed at the box office and it had long looked unlikely the character would get another big screen outing. While many may have preferred to see a concluding chapter to Del Toro’s trilogy, at least this film provides new life for the character.

Director Neil Marshall has his own fanbase amongst horror fans and those audiences will likely welcome the more blood drenched and violent version of Hellboy he provides. Particularly those that considered Del Toro’s Hellboy franchise to be a bit too comical and bloodless may welcome a more authentically dark take on the character. While Del Toro had Hellboy drunkenly crooning along to Barry Manilow, by contrast Marshall has him brutally severing Giant limbs with a 15 foot sword.

This film also definitely offers up a host of monstrous fantasy creatures, doing its best to match the impressive effects and world building that made Del Toro’s Hellboy series such an eye watering treat. More devoted fans of the original comics will definitely welcome seeing some of the characters and lore that as left unexplored by Del Toro finally brought to life on screen.

The Bad

Stranger Things star David Harbour has an awkward gravel voiced charisma that should make him a suitable fit for playing Hellboy. Unfortunately a potentially decent performance is largely lost under layers of makeup that sadly fails to capture most of the character’s distinctive visual charms. It’s simply impossible to avoid obvious comparisons with the far superior character design and makeup that perfectly transformed Ron Perlman in Guillermo Del Toro’s past film adaptations. Harbour’s Hellboy is far more sincerely ugly and lacks the pleasant cartoonish simplicity of Mike Mignola’s original artwork. It’s a shame that one of the most crucially important elements of the production feels so badly out of place. In all honesty Harbour looks more like a comic con fan in cosplay than ever coming close to embodying the real character.

Beyond Harbour’s serviceable portrayal of the gruff voiced monster hunter, sadly the rest of the cast offers relatively little. Sasha Lane playing Hellboy’s psychic sidekick Alice gives a performance worthy of a school play. Meanwhile Deadwood star Ian McShane is oddly cast as a suspiciously youthful Professor Broom, Hellboy’s supposedly octogenarian father figure. Milla Jovovich playing the film’s main villainess, the ominously titled Blood Queen, sadly does little to distinguish her performance from any of her other typically stilted displays. While she remains agelessly beautiful, she lacks the necessary menace and gravitas to make her a memorable movie monster. In truth the film never seems to fully unleash her despite obvious potential.

While it’s unfair to constantly compare this version of Hellboy to Del Toro’s past versions, sadly it’s also unavoidably. While the previous Hellboy films were a masterclass in practical effects wizardry, sadly this new version is more heavily reliant on CGI and excessive blood splatter. At times it feels and looks more like an expensively produced video game than an authentically real world. Ultimately it makes it harder not to wonder whether the material would have been better served by a full on animated treatment rather than this live action hybrid. Though there has been several straight to DVD Hellboy animated efforts, it’s a shame that the studio couldn’t have explored the option for a more lavishly realised animated feature that could have finally captured the unique style of Mignola’s striking artwork. Sadly this live action film misses the mark, leaving audiences with generic Resident Evil style CGI action and a regrettably ugly looking Hellboy.

The Ugly Truth

Sadly this ill-favoured reboot doesn’t do nearly enough to step out from the daunting shadow of Mike Mignola’s iconic comic books and Guillermo Del Toro’s past big screen adaptations. Excessive CGI gore can’t hide a generic plot and some weak acting performances in a film that largely squanders excellent source material in ways that feel disappointingly… low budget.

Review by Russell Nelson

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