Movie Review: ‘Hellboy’ (2019)
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church
Plot: Hellboy is a demonic summoned from hell as a baby and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm to fight supernatural threats as part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. When an evil medieval witch is restored Hellboy is forced to face his origins and fate.
Review: It hasn’t been that long since the Guillermo del Toro movie series sadly bowed out after only two entries. It wasn’t a masterpiece but the casting was perfect, the practical effects were lovely and they really found the emotional core of a complex character. Neil Marshall’s new take on the character does…none of those things.
It feels as though everyone was here for the right reasons. There’s a tonne of fan service, ideas drawn from a number of classic Hellboy stories, a good casting choice for Hellboy himself in David Harbour and, as the trailer revealed, some amazing art and monster design. It also feels as though things got real rocky behind the scenes as Ian McShane, as Bruttenholm, very clearly stops giving a shit. His final appear to Hellboy is delivered with all the passion of a turnip.
The biggest problem lies at script level, making the film feel like they were making it up as they go along. Multiple flashbacks occur because they need to backtrack and add more to Hellboy’s story. Hellboy meets psychic team-mate Alice (Lane) for the first time, she threatens him and in the next scene he insists that she come on the mission because “she’s the only one he trusts”. On two occasions the evil witch Milla Jovovich summons a monster army only for them to vanish before Hellboy even sees them. One group of weirdo British paranormal investigators outright tell Hellboy that their mission is to kill him…before inviting him to hunt dangerous giants…then SURPRISE they were luring him out to kill him (it’s treated like a twist – they TOLD HIM they were going to kill him) and they attempt this in the place they have stated the giants will return…and the giants surprisingly return.
It’s a total mess of a story.
There’s a whole subplot about one character custom ordering a special anti-monster gun that he can use to kill Hellboy, and puts a strong emphasise on it only having one shot. This is never used. It’s a the complete opposite of Chekov’s Gun.
I can’t help but to feel sorry for those who worked on art design, because so few people are going to see their amazing work. There’s some classic fairy creature designs derived from Celtic folklore and some downright mind-blowing looking gargantuan looking horrors who slaughter their way through the streets of London, looking like something derived from a collaboration between H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker. Sure, none of the main characters ever see them or interact with them in any way, but they look amazing. Pretty much all the points this movie scores come from the design throughout the film. I loved the make-shift armour the giants crafted from bits of truck and iron gates. It’s all very fun and creative.
That aside, all we get left with is tired looking actors, CGI from the early 2000s, a nonsense plot and a juvenile approach to gore and horror.
Rating: THREE out of TEN