What’s one third exposition, one third pointless fight scenes and one third character flashbacks that nobody cares about? That’s right, it’s the 2019 reboot of Hellboy. In 2004, Guillermo Del Toro brought the beloved but unconventional comic book hero to life. The mixture of fantasy, heart and Ron Perlman’s charismatic performance gave the movie a cult following and despite the less successful sequel, fans still hoped for a third instalment. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be and the reigns of the potential franchise were given over to Lionsgate and director Neil Marshall.
Cut to 2019, Hellboy (David Harbour) is a hard drinking, demon fighting machine who reluctantly takes on the worst monsters that hell can spit out and puts them right back. His father, Professor Broom (Ian McShane) gave him a home after stopping a hole being ripped open between hell and Earth. However, unlike the 2004 loving father/son relationship between John Hurt and Ron Perlman, McShane’s Professor Broom treats his ‘son’ like a weapon and so to hide his anguish, Hellboy drowns his sorrows in drink and buries himself in his work, which mainly consists of gory, overly violent fights.
In fact, the 2019 Hellboy reboot is squarely aimed at teenage boys whose fathers have never told them they love them. However, even when the movie tries to explore the emotions of its protagonist, it quickly fails as Hellboy is thrust into nonsensical fight scenes which are designed to pad out the running time. Whether it be the studio or the director’s choice, the message is clear that a man should bury his emotions and resort to drinking and fighting.
Hellboy is joined on his adventure by Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) a psychic who Hellboy saved when she was a baby and by Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) a soldier who hides a dark secret about his time in combat. It’s a shame then that despite these character’s back stories (and the audience finds out about them whether they like it or not) that neither of these characters hold any kind of emotional connection to Hellboy. It’s as if he just picks up these supporting characters along the way and they form no bond, no emotional growth and absolutely no character development. In Alice’s case she is just a walking plot device. Add to that the supporting actors appalling English accents and their presence only seems to emphasise the weak and stilted dialogue.
Many characters are also thrown at the screen and are no doubt nods to die hard fans of the comics but for the most part they are quickly discarded with barely a nod or a wink to the audience. The brief moments of comedy come from Hellboy and Harbour puts in a good performance but has very little to do as the script never really gives his character a chance to shine. There are also fleeting moments of comedy from the Liverpudlian warthog, Gruagach (Stephen Graham) but again the inferiority complex that the character displays and his history with Hellboy is never fleshed out enough to make it funny. Finally, we come to the villain of the piece, Nimue (Mila Jovovich) who I should have guessed by her involvement that the quality of the film would be less than stellar. Many bad roles have extinguished any hope of Jovovich’s screen presence and she comes across as somebody who just turned up to read the lines and go home. Much like McShane’s performance now I come to think of it.
The Hellboy reboot is a complete failure as far as characters, plot and emotional weight are concerned. Director Neil Marshall’s early 2000’s horror hits Dog Soldiers and The Descent made him a perfect fit for a darker take on the Hellboy franchise but it’s clear that something went very wrong in the edit. The result is an unwatchable, incoherent mess that’s unsure what audience it’s aiming to please. The film even has the audacity to tease a sequel which suggests that the studio was so blinded by the prospect of making money that they forgot to make an enjoyable movie. Hellboy sure is hell, boys and girls.
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