Hellboy review: the movie deserves a special place in Hell

After wracking my brain for the last few hours, I have finally come to the conclusion that David Harbour’s Hellboy has a special place in Hell reserved for it.

I have spent the last few hours going over how new Hellboy movie piece-by-piece dismantled the legacy of the comic book. And of the last two Hellboy movies made by Guillermo Del Toro. But before I tell you why I reached this conclusion, let me tell you ‘how’ I got to this conclusion.

After the red band trailer for the movie dropped over a month back, I was super excited to watch this movie. And the runaway success of Umbrella Academy on Netflix gave me a boost of confidence. Why, you ask. Because both are from the stable of Dark Horse comics. And if you have no idea what that is, you should read up more about them before you read this review further.

 

Here is a quick recap, if you don’t want to move away from this page: Founded in 1986 by Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics is an American comic book and manga publisher that released Hellboy, The American, The Mask and Umbrella Academy among others.

And if you are one of the few folks who are unfamiliar with Hellboy, here goes. As the name suggests Hellboy is from Hell with a human mother and his father is, you guessed it: the devil. He is brought to Earth, as a young boy, by the Nazis in a last ditch attempt to help them win WWII. But he is rescued by the Americans.

He grows up to become a hard-drinking, smart-mouthed paranormal threat fighter who finds tries to find salvation in work and his father.

What definitely does not work for this movie?

Throughout the 121 minute runtime of the movie, you have a strong sense of deja vu. As if you have seen it all before. The plot feels lived in but director Neil Marshall seems to have added his own set of punchlines to make it a tad bit different from its predecessors.

The script borrows almost that works about this movie from the Mike Mignola comics. But this version of Hellboy fails to break away from the rather large shadow cast by the Guillermo Del Toro movies. Everything in this movie, from David Harbour’s (who plays Hellboy in this movie) buff body to the comedic undertone, feels a simple rehash of the earlier movies. Marshall just peppered this version with a few adult jokes and more gore to make it R-rated. A lot of the jokes in the movie may be missed if you blink at the wrong times or have hearing problems. So stay focused.

Milla Jankovich as the ‘Blood Queen’ is a character that I truly believe the script could have done without. Not because she doesn’t play her part with utter aplomb, but because her part is riddled with cliches. When Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok unleashed Cate Blanchett as Hela, I was quite ecstatic. Because it paved the way for more such roles for females in comic book movies. But this was just a massive disappointment.

But Jankovich carries a lot on her shoulders, including an absolute bonkers script and a wacky premise. From the opening shot to the first five minutes, I formed a knot in my stomach owing to the absurdity of the plot. And I get the argument that comic book movies are supposed to be absurd, but no like this. Also, there is no emotional essense to the movie.

What works for the movie?

The movie manages to stay true to its comic book roots adding sufficient gore and profanity to make die-hard comic books swoon. When Lionsgate studio choose not to hire Del Toro for the third installment, it made sure to hire a solid replacement instead. Neil Marshall is best known for his gore filled ‘Centurion’ and several episodes of Game of Thrones. So, they knew the movie was in good hands.

What also definitely keeps you involved in the movie is its zesty soundtrack which involves a lot of grunge rock. But none of it is too familiar. However, it crops up at certain inopportune moments when the script’s restless seems to phase out.

The CGI is simply spot on. It seems like Marshall knows exactly how to make all the vile characters loathsome and witty at the same time. However, the film takes a leaf out of Marvel’s tried-and-tested formula of not taking itself seriously. The almost perpetual bloodshed goes hand-in-hand with the comedy imbibed in the script. At times it is for the audience’s benefit and at other times it seems to be simply for the characters to release tension.

Even though the script is somewhat predictable, it is a lot of fun to watch it unfold with a hapless Hellboy leading the proceedings. Even though he shows flashes of conflict over his part in the ‘end of the world,’ the script never allows us to feel his pain. It is like from the moment Harbour’s Hellboy appears on the screen, the narrative does not stop to take a breath. And though at times it does feel nauseating, eventually it provides an adrenaline rush.

Ian McShane shines in what little presence he is granted on the screen. Him and Daniel Dae Kim. Both of them should act more.

Parting words

Do not and I definitely mean do not go into the movie expecting anything other than mindless endless entertainment. The movie manages to pay homage to Guillermo Del Toro and Harbour’s Hellboy is worth the wait.

Also, Harbour’s Hellboy drawls from time to time so pay attention to him and his dialogues. More than half the fun of his jokes lie in the deadpan manner in which he delivers them.

To end, I will say this. I love Hellboy. The comics and the earlier two movies. But I wanted more. So much more.

 

Grade: C

Cast:  David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jankovich, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane

 

 

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