Hellboy movie review: This reboot promises to be darker, bloodier and edgier but doesn't fully deliver
There are plenty ‘cool’ moments in Hellboy, like smash cuts, guitar riffs and a horde of imaginative looking creatures but they serve as dressing for material that just isn’t good enough.
Hellboy is one of those odd films that has a lot going on, on-screen, yet amounts to very little. This is a reboot that promises to be darker, edgier and bloodier than the Guillermo Del Toro franchise from the aughts and in some visual elements it does achieve those levels, but it is an unsatisfactory whole, not landing the punches it intends to deliver.
The story is as cookie cutter as they come. We’re introduced to a Fellowship of the Ring style prologue where an ancient evil – a queen in this case – is vanquished, but promises a comeback centuries later. Our protagonist then descends upon the earth, half-evil half-good, but with the proclivity to turn to the dark side. And if you’ve seen any movie about good vs evil, you’ll be able to see how the potential skirmish between Hellboy (played by David Harbour, an okay replacement to Ron Pearlman) and the evil queen (Milla Jovovich, as un-impactful as ever) plans out. Of course there is a team up situation here and Hellboy jams with other dudes with supernatural abilities to take down the looming threat.
Hellboy is directed by Neil Marshall, who has made the terrifying The Descent and some of the best action scenes of Game of Thrones – and in Hellboy he attempts to combine both his flair for horror and swashbuckling action. There are plenty of ‘cool’ moments, like smash cuts, guitar riffs and a horde of imaginative looking creatures but they serve as dressing for material that just isn’t good enough for you to care about.
The film tries to woo the teenage crowd with F-bombs, sarcastic one liners and over the top action scenes, though everything feels disproportionate – turning it all into a loud and mostly dumb storytelling. To counterweigh the soulless blockbuster-ness of the overarching plot, the film tries to cram in ‘heart’ with a father-son track but it’s cringe inducing in its saccharine-ness. And as a final blow the most interesting visual in the film is a climactic dream that doesn’t occur in the climax.
This is a movie that needed to be cooler than it thinks it is. In many ways it is reminiscent of The Seventh Son, another swords and sandals horror-adventure epic that failed despite its amazing set designs, and also made by the same studio. It’s a testament to how a movie with all the elements to create a fun story could crumble at every turn, occasionally offering glimpses into a much better film but always falling two steps behind. And it is these moments that really frustrate – like the main monster in the third act who looks so amazing but disappears from the movie after just one scene; or the witch in the film who purges a man who looks like a snake but has no character development, or frog warriors who seem like they’re about to bring down the house but are mere placeholders.
Hellboy needed to settle down and focus; it’s what makes the audience invest in the content, but the director goes for the cram-everything-in-the-folder-and-shove-the-folder-down-our-throats approach.
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