Hellboy is back, and he's on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola's seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers the Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.
Hellboy has certainly garnered plenty of attention since its release, drawing criticism for everything from its use of gore to its overall lack of Ron Perlman. The Del Toro franchise that came before is undoubtedly a cult classic, but how does the new rendition stand up?
The best I can say is, it truly isn’t the movie that critics have almost spitefully depicted it as. It’s fast paced, action packed, full of F-words and obscenely gory. All this being said, it is also choppy in the first two acts and suffers from a soundtrack that is best described as overbearing. The heavy metal influence is obvious from the start though, which is probably the most important aspect that has been lost in every reaction released thus far.
The violence and general campiness is a result of the driving influences that only become more and more evident as the film continues on. By the finale, it it’s all too apparent that this film is a brutal throwback to the Heavy Metal magazine aesthetic with a driving focus on merging the horror and comic book genres. With the first F-word coming only seconds into the opening scene, audiences are thrown into this entirely new direction for the franchise without a moment’s hesitation.
Taking inspiration from multiple arcs in Mike Mignola’s timeless Hellboy comic books including “Darkness Calls”, “The Wild Hunt” and “The Storm and The Fury”, the 2019 film seems unfazed by trying to fit as much story into the 2 hour time-span as possible. This helps to keep the pacing engaging, but it’s also a relief for some of the more cheesy moments that you just don’t want to drag on any longer. The wrestling match at the beginning is an example of this in action. Luckily, it’s almost as if the film recognizes these moments, because it isn’t long before a bloody impalement happens and we are on to the next scene.
David Harbour as Hellboy is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie with regards to performances. He nails the repelling yet oddly charming charisma of Hellboy, bringing in his own flair of humor to make the role uniquely his. Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen is the surprise standout though. Her villainous role is more complex than just another witch seeking revenge, and Jovovich managed to inject just the right amount of personality and depth to pull this off successfully. With great performances by Ian McShane and Sasha Lane as well as a brief introduction to Thomas Haden Church’s fan-favorite character Lobster Johnson, the cast of characters proves to be a memorable collection of some of Mignola’s best work.
There has been a lot of criticism directed at the use of CGI in the film, but I would like to draw attention to the fabulous practical effects used all throughout the reboot. Del Toro’s use of prosthetics and other practical effects may be uncanny, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the new film not shy away from them as well. I actually enjoy the willingness to merge both CGI and practical effects, and the introduction of Baba Yaga is a nearly perfect representation of this. Her chicken-leg traveling home in an alternate dimension is a dark CGI spectacle, but inside we find a terror that is all classic practical effects. The combination results in a horrifying scene that is undoubtedly a standout in the entire film.
The final act is where everything feels like it falls into place. The choppy editing ceases and the actors are allowed a bit more room to breathe as Nimue’s plans of carnage come to fruition. As Hellboy struggles with destiny and his place in the world, he is forced to wield King Arthur’s Excalibur and strike down the Blood Queen. However, from the moment he grasps the sword, the mayhem of hell unleashes upon the world. This is where the film truly earns its R rating. The beasts of the underworld ravage the city, spilling blood in some utterly disgusting and terrifying ways that simply aren’t fit to talk about here. The visuals are certainly brutal, but they are also incredibly epic. Hellboy rising from King Arthur’s grave with the flaming sword and crown is nothing short of iconic!
Overall, the film works really well when it needs to and isn’t afraid to have a little fun in the process. Unfortunately, the soundtrack suffers due to a rather unsuccessful attempt to nail down the Heavy Metal vibe that is often explored. This causes a noticeable contrast between what we see on screen and how the producers seemingly intended it to be viewed. I believe this delves into the heart of most of the problems with the film. The editing room can be a dangerous place for some creative teams, and it looks like this is where the Hellboy reboot may have fallen victim to nefarious situations or influences. Despite the awkward pacing initially and the sometimes cringeworthy soundtrack, the film is actually really enjoyable to watch.
Sometimes a trip to the movie theater is just about having fun and that is exactly what this movie is. Grab a bucket of popcorn and a soda, put your expectations aside and enjoy the ride!
The latest Hellboy film is a brutal and wildly fun experience that draws on classic Heavy Metal inspirations to separate itself from the previous entries in the franchise. Though it suffers from a few puzzling decisions made in the editing room and a lackluster soundtrack, from the moment it begins all the way to the post-credits scene, it never fails to entertain!
Hellboy: Legendary AF. But is it Worthwhile?
Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
Acting - 9/109/10
Music - 5/105/10
Production - 7.5/107.5/10
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