RELEASED: April 12th 2019
DISTRIBUTED BY: Lionsgate
DIRECTED BY: Neil Marshall
WRITTEN BY: Andrew Cosby
PRODUCED BY: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson, Phillip Westgren, Carl Hampe, Matt O’Toole, Les Wildon & Yariv Lerner
MUSIC BY: Benjamin Wallfisch
STARRING: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Stephen Graham & Thomas Hayden Church
I vaguely remember reading about some on-set disputes prior to the release of Hellboy, but the film came and went, and I never got round to watching it in cinemas. And so, while I was writing the above credits, I had to pause and question the number of producers Wikipedia had listed. Surely, that couldn’t be right? I double-checked on other sites and confirmed it was. And frankly, that mass of producers speaks volumes about the quality of the final product.
Because there is fun to be had in the Hellboy reboot, but unfortunately, overall, it’s a bit of a mess.
The film follows the titular demonic hero, Hellboy, as he and the B.P.R.D. work on hunting down the ancient Arthurian witch Nimue to stop her from bringing back the plague. However, amidst their search, Hellboy must grapple with a prophecy that claims he will bring about the end of the world, while other parties attempt to take him out of the picture to avoid the oncoming catastrophe.
I’ve trimmed that synopsis down because there’s a hell of a lot more going on than all that. You would think the conflict between Hellboy and the Blood Queen would be enough, but on top of that, there’s giants and vampires and fairies and demons.
It’s cool to see, what with this movie being our first look into a new take on the Hellboy franchise, but it’s somewhat overwhelming and makes the movie feel bloated.
It’s like they knew how this film was going to be received, and so they stuffed as much Hellboy-related stuff in as they could. If you switch your mind off – completely – then that’s where the enjoyment can come in, as seeing Hellboy tussle with all manner of different monsters is entertaining, and the grossly excessive gore makes this movie stand out amongst its superhero peers. The designs in this film are outstanding. The various creatures and characters all look fantastic, whether that be the otherworldly demons, the various giants or Baba Yaga. They all are suitably unnerving and make for some beautifully horrific imagery.
But if you take note of the story, the pacing, some of the dialogue, and unfortunately some of the performances, then you’ll quickly start to question this movie’s quality.
The performances are particularly irksome. Harbour and Jovovich both do well as their respective characters, even if they’re not given enough to make them truly captivating, which is weird, considering it’s their movie. But the side characters feel tonally off – the chosen direction and line delivery never really seems to fit the moment, with Sasha Lane’s character being a repeat offender. Similarly, while I’m not hugely knowledgable about Hellboy, Ian McShane seems less like he’s playing the character Bruttenholm of the comics and prior films, and more like he’s just playing… Ian McShane?
I don’t blame the actors, as it’s very clear that there were a lot of different people at the top who clearly envisioned this film in different ways. The stories of such disagreements are out there, but just watching the movie is evidence enough.
Never is it more obvious than at the ending, where, in true superhero movie fashion, Hellboy has to stop the end of the world, but the movie has spent so long playing with other different factors – giant hunters in England, backstories for somewhat dull characters, vampires in Mexico, a physical rival for Hellboy, a nonexistent love story for Nimue, Arthurian Legends – that when it comes to the one thing that the movie promised; some sort of doomsday, there’s not enough time to actually do anything fun or meaningful with it, and subsequently the whole thing feels inconsequential.
It’s not the worst film, and if you want to engage in some cool horror-superhero visuals, then, by all means, give it a watch. But if you want a well-told story, give it a miss.
All-in-all, I give Hellboy: