Review: ‘Hellboy’ burns at the box office with senseless plot and breakneck pacing

Courtesy of Lionsgate

“Usually in these reviews I highlight the plot of each film before everything else in the review but in regards to “Hellboy” there is barely anything in this plot that makes any logical sense.”

“Hellboy” (2019) not to be confused with “Hellboy” (2004), is the goriest superhero film ever made. Instead of retaining the same visionary style of the Oscar-winning director, Guillermo del Toro, this reboot decides to follow the comic book source material more closely. That being said, it wasn’t an improvement.

Regardless of his other two films, the character of Hellboy is still generally unpopular in the public zeitgeist with the current reign of superhero movies at the box office. But because Hellboy isn’t a Marvel or DC character, his films don’t receive as much attention as other superheroes films do. It could be different if the character of Hellboy was more unique or distinctive. Hellboy is essentially a half-demon, half-human monster with super strength, a variety of supernatural weaponry, and an unmistakable arm made of stone. His personality is basically a cross between Wolverine and Lobo (an alien biker with a rambunctious attitude possessing snow white skin and shaggy black hair who predates Hellboy by 10 years) making him a bit of a clichéd character (not to mention all three of these characters chain-smoke cigarettes and drink heavily). Hellboy’s whole shtick of being a rebellious supernatural anti-hero is quite tired and uninteresting especially when we’ve seen it twice before in two better movies.

In those previous films, Hellboy was expertly played by Ron Perlman who arguably played the role so well that recasting him would be a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, in this reboot’s Hellboy is played by “Stranger Things” David Harbour. He does an adequate job with what he is given, but his red Hellboy makeup is just too distracting at times. Sometimes his face doesn’t move as much as it should to the point you can’t even tell if Hellboy is talking. And other times his face is too expressive to the point of a cartoon character. But while Harbour’s performance as Hellboy is pretty loyal to the source material, at certain points of the film Hellboy sounds like a little whiny when talking to his father.

Another major flaw of this film are the character introductions. Basically, any time a new character enters a scene, the movie cuts straight to a flashback. This happens about five or six times in the movie. Instead of introducing characters like a normal movie would with their dialogue and actions, the audience’s time is wasted by unnecessary flashbacks that tell you how that character got to where they are now, but don’t advance the actual plot of the story.

Usually in these reviews I highlight the plot of each film before everything else in the review but in regards to “Hellboy” there is barely anything in this plot that makes any logical sense. Apparently in this universe, King Arthur (yes, that King Arthur) existed and used his legendary sword, Excalibur, to kill the evil blood queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich) back in medieval times. But centuries later, Nimue’s monstrous acolytes have resurrected her to take over the world, or something.

It’s not really clear what she wants to do. The only thing that’s clear is that she’s the villain and must be stopped. Probably the most clichéd narrative choice in any film, not just in the superhero genre. But if you’re going to see a Hellboy movie you probably aren’t going for the plot anyway.

Altogether, the main reason to see this film is because of its farcical violence. “Hellboy” is filled with the most gory and brutal battles in any superhero film. The scene where Hellboy confronts three giants is the standout. Hellboy is completely out of his element and is just stumbling around trying to stay alive with these murderous behemoths that the movie begins to feel like the first two films (in terms of tone, at least). Each action scene seems like it was directed by Quentin Tarantino with all of the extreme use of blood splatters and limb loss. Even some of the demon designs towards the end of the film seem as though they’ve been ripped straight out of  “Pan’s Labyrinth” or “Cloverfield.” Overall, most of the creatures and special effects are pretty visionary (although not to the extent Guillermo del Toro could’ve taken it if he had directed again).

“Hellboy” overall is just a mess of film, clearly plagued with production struggles and obviously made to exploit the popular superhero genre. The pacing is utterly incomprehensible, and the characters are only introduced to please comic book fans without having any relevance to overall nonexistent plot. Instead of going to see another unnecessary reboot, just check out the original films.

Rating: D-