Directed by Neil Marshall. Starring David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, Brian Gleeson.
The Plot: A demon who fights for the good guys in a paranormal research facility, Hellboy (David Harbour) finds himself caught in an apocalyptic scenario involving a resurrected witch. Having been dismembered by King Arthur centuries ago, Nimue The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) is put back together again by her underworld servants and threatens to unleash a new world of gods and monsters. Not if Hellboy has anything to say about it. Teaming up with human father Professor Broom (Ian McShane) and sidekicks Alice (Sasha Lane) and Ben (Daniel Dae Kim), they set out to stop Nimue and have a hellishly good time doing it too…
The Verdict: Once upon a time, Guillermo Del Toro dreamed of completing his acclaimed Hellboy trilogy. With two films in the can, star Ron Perlman still excited about the role and fans eager for more, it seemed like a done deal. Sadly, for various reasons it never came to fruition. But Hellboy, based on the Dark Horse Comics character by Mike Mignola, is still a hot property and perhaps it needed a new direction and a new production team. Or maybe not, once you’ve viewed the end result of the 2019 Hellboy reboot. With rumours now leaking out onto the Internet that it was not a happy production and that ace genre director Neil Marshall was not fully in control, it’s not hard to see why this new film is a bit of a mess.
For starters, the new production team went full throttle with a hard rating. The kind that Hellboy probably needed to begin with. It’s about demons after all and that’s not exactly kid-friendly subject matter. Rather than go for a diet horror approach, Marshall has guts, gore and body parts flying across the screen with wild abandon. Too much actually. It’s gore just for the sake of it. When huge demons stalk the streets of London towards the end, it becomes a massacre that pushes at the very edge of its somewhat lenient 16 rating. It should have been in 3D to lighten the mood and provoke some much-needed laughter. For this is a mostly serious Hellboy film, which often forgets to, you know…. have fun with its characters. Especially with big old red himself.
There’s no faulting David Harbour’s strong lead performance though. With his bulked-up physique, tall frame and gravelly voice, he certainly looks and sounds the part. He holds his own amid the carnage and delivers a nice line in weary heroism. It’s just a shame that the rest of the film around him is chaotic and lacking focus. Milla Jovovich makes for an ineffectual villain, provoking unintentional laughter with her frequent disembodied scenes. When she’s put back together again, she’s just a sneering rent-a-villain with a weak plan to bring about the end of days. Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim struggle unconvincingly with their English accents, while the sight of a pig-man-demon hybrid with a Liverpuddlian accent is just plain odd. An unrecognisable Brian Gleeson pops up as an Irish Merlin too, spouting much ado about nothing. It’s a mish-mash that doesn’t gel together into a satisfying whole.
While it’s just about passable as a time waster, the new Hellboy’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t have any soul. The bloody heart is there, but the soul of Hellboy has been sacrificed at the altar of change. Marshall tries too hard to make it different enough from Del Toro’s films, so that Hellboy himself is just an efficient facilitator of dispatching bad guys. Only at the very end (and in the mid-credits sting) does Marshall have real fun with the character. But it’s too little too late. This new take had its chance… and blew it.