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Film Review: Hellboy (2019)

Hellboy (2019)

Directed by: Neil Marshall
Written by: Andrew Cosby & Mike Mignola
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim & Sasha Lane.

You probably know all about the original Hellboy movies, as they aren’t really that old. It’s not like they were made in the 1980’s and someone had a great idea to reboot them. The first one was 2004 and the sequel was 2008, so if you are a fan of the comic book genre, I reckon you will have a working knowledge of the character. So when you go to see the 2019 version, you will have to pretend that you haven’t seen the previous films, because that’s the only way you will probably get any enjoyment from what’s on the screen.

This looks to me like a troubled production, and though I have a very limited knowledge of the process of film making, it looks like there may have been some pulling and pushing as far as this film goes. It’s actually quite hard to put my finger on it, but essentially nothing really works here. The characters are very lightly sketched out, they speak in cliche and are defined by what they can do. Evil witch queen is nasty to everyone and wants to end the world, or something, psychic girl can talk to dead people and is very sassy, scarred soldier has a secret, you get the idea.

Nothing is even remotely surprising or new, so you have to wonder what the point of this remake was? The story has been done a hundred times, it is so paper thin that the production decides to rely on ultra violence and bad language to try and distract everyone from its failings. A man sized talking CGI wart hog has a potty mouth that would make Joe Pesci blush, and the rest of the cast follow suit to the point where it just becomes annoying. I’m no prude, I swear all the time, but not in the strange, stilted, unaffected way that these characters do. It’s often out of place and un-natural, tonally jarring and just dumb, but the writer has decided that it’s really edgy to swear nonchalantly, so he’s always going to make it happen.

The same goes for the over the top gore and violence. There are dismemberment’s, impaling’s, beheading’s and squashing’s galore but after a while it’s just so lazy – we get it, you want to shock us, but I’m not sure that the Hellboy fan base are really that impressed by such immature techniques. On top of that, the tone of this movie feels wrong, and most of the visuals are quite cheap looking. Perhaps the smaller budget was a problem, it came in at around $50m, but surely that was clue to do a different type of story? A more thought out character driven piece, that didn’t rely quite so much on green screen fight scenes and end of the world scenario’s, would have been a better approach. Lord knows there is plenty of source material that they could have worked from, but instead the production falls back on armies of senseless marauding demons, carving a path through London, destroying some landmarks as they go.

There’s also some nonsense about King Arthur, Excalibur and Merlin, that is so awkwardly shoe horned into the script, that it’s probably there to justify the main story playing out in the UK. Evil witch person seems to specialise in releasing a plague to wipe us out with, but then as an after thought giant demons appear and start kicking the reaction shots out of extras, who seem to be walking about London, even though it has been made very clear that a plague is killing everyone and you should stay indoors. Scenes just run into each other, almost without any thought about what has happened previously, and nothing makes sense. We are so un-invested in the cast that we don’t care what happens to them, and none of them do anything that would even remotely endear us to them.

By the time we get to the sudden under explained resolution to the crisis, every part of me was pleading for them just to stop. But it didn’t, we get a coda showing our team of heroes violently dispatching another group of secret occultists, with absolutely no signs that they were in any way changed by the previous events or happenings.

Nothing matters in Hellboy, the reset button is pushed as the producers try desperately to convince us that this film deserves a franchise worthy of the MCU, except it doesn’t. It’s a mess, wrapped in gore, violence and a general misunderstanding of the source material, and as a result we get a boring, repetitive, classless and unfunny movie that left me cold and uncaring about the whole genre.

Stop, just stop.