Hellboy battles an ancient sorceress bent on destroying the human race.
I never had any hopes that “Hellboy (2019)” would outclass “Hellboy (2004)” or “Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)”, but I had hoped that it would at least be passable. While Neil Marshall’s name might not mean much to the average moviegoer, I was actually excited to see what he could do.
Admittedly, Marshall’s films have all had their bumpy spots, but I would argue “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent” are both solid modern entries into the horror genre, and I think “Centurion” is a bloody fun watch as well (even “Doomsday” is somewhat of a guilty pleasure film for me). Marshall also helmed the “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall” episodes of Game of Thrones, which were two of the bigger battle-centric episodes. So, I think it was fair to hope that this was good…
Sadly, this film was a bit of a mess, but I actually don’t think it was Marshall’s fault. This movie was doomed to fail before it even started shooting because the script is an absolute joke. The writer, Andrew Cosby, has writing credits on a TV show he created called “Eureka” and another show called “Haunted” but this was his first film. It shows. I’m also sure Cosby was a huge fan of the Mike Mignola comics, and because of that, he wanted to include as much cool stuff as he could into this one movie. In the end, the story feels incredibly episodic; every five minutes we’re meeting another character or finding out their back-story or fighting another pointless villain that has no overall effect on the rest of the story. In the end, Hellboy (David Harbour, “The Equalizer”) ends up fighting baddies every ten to fifteen minutes; sometimes we’re not even sure of the stakes.
I tried, so hard, not to make comparisons between this film and Guillermo Del Toro’s films, but it inevitably happened. I honestly think the comparisons between the two franchises are the reason the film’s score is so low- right now it has a 31% on Metacritic and a 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s bad; but it’s not that bad. I actually think this movie did a few things right, and one of those things was casting David Harbour.
Again, as it’s impossible not to make comparisons; Harbour isn’t as good as Ron Perlman, but I think he makes an adequate substitute. If writer Andrew Cosby got one thing right, it was keeping Hellboy’s dialogue relatively snappy and fun, and even when the writing lacked, Harbour did his darndest to make it work. Milla Jovovich (“Dazed and Confused”) however, is absolutely atrocious. I always wonder how she found work, or, more accurately, how the heck anyone was convinced to see six movies of her running around and shooting zombies and other ghoulie baddies. I mean, one movie or even two movies would’ve been understandable, three movies would’ve been a smidge disconcerting… but how the heck did we end up with six freaking “Resident Evil” movies and animated spinoffs? What’s wrong with the world? I digress.
Ian McShane (“John Wick Chapter 3- Parabellum”) looked like he was only there cash his paycheck. Daniel Dae Kim (The Tale of Princess Kaguya”) actually looked like he cared and was trying really hard, but his character’s abilities were so ridiculous that I ended up laughing any time he had to use his powers. Sasha Lane (“American Honey”) was fine I guess.
Another thing I liked was the design of most of the creatures. While I do admit a few of the creatures looked like they might have taken some design element ideas from the Del Toro films, I suppose since the source material is the same that’s a bit inevitable. I thought it was smart to avoid using many of the characters they used in the other Hellboy movies, like Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman; they instead used other agents with other (sometimes funny) powers.
I thought the Baba Yaga creature was really awesome looking, but I had no idea why she was actually in the film. Likewise, I thought a lot of the hellish creatures that come to earth in the final act were also really cool looking; many of them reminded me of the Cenobites from “Hellraiser”, however the overall climax was a mess (more on that in a minute).
I liked how graphic the violence was. I know a lot of people will scoff at that last comment, but when I watch an R-rated action fantasy horror film I expect there to be a fair amount of blood and guts. Some of the action sequences are actually quite inventive with their choreography (like the giant fight scene), and the other sequences that aren’t as well choreographed are always bloody enough to keep me engaged (and, usually, laughing).
I honestly was pretty close to giving this movie a 2.5/5, which is just below the threshold of passing, but the climax is so totally ridiculous that it almost lost me completely. (SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENDING FOLLOW) It’s revealed that Hellboy is not only part demon but part human, and he’s actually the heir to both thrones of Hell and of England, if he wields Excalibur, he can marry the Blood Queen (Jovovich) and rule everywhere. Also, wielding Excalibur is the only way to kill the Blood Queen, so as soon as he pulls the sword from the stone, all hell breaks loose quite literally. Demons the size of the London Bridge appear all over the world and just start wreaking havoc for five minutes. People are ripped in half, impaled on spikes, squeezed until their goo sprays out like a pressurized tube of toothpaste, tossed off buildings, eaten up alive, and it’s all done in the most gleefully gory manor. While I personally found this ending to be absolutely hysterical, it’s also so totally off the rails that I found myself completely loosing interest, and I wanted it to just end.
It’s not as bad as everyone says, but it’s still not good. I certainly laughed my fair share, so if you were just looking for stupid entertainment this would suffice. I found myself enjoying bits of this like I enjoyed “Godzilla: King of Monsters” or any of the “Underworld” movies; if you’re looking for something with substance, you wouldn’t want to look anywhere near here, but you can certainly find a few chuckles if that’s what you searching for.
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