Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Movie Review: Hellboy

Hellboy ** / *****
Directed by: Neil Marshall.
Written by: Andrew Cosby based on the Dark Horse Comic Book by Mike Mignola.
Starring: David Harbour (Hellboy), Ian McShane (Professor Bruttenholm), Milla Jovovich (Nimue the Blood Queen), Sasha Lane (Alice Monaghan), Daniel Dae Kim (Ben Daimio), Penelope Mitchell (Ganeida), Thomas Haden Church (Lobster Johnson), Sophie Okonedo (Lady Hatton), Brian Gleeson (Merlin), Alistair Petrie (Lord Adam Glaren), Kristina Klebe (Leni Riefenstahl).
I cannot say how much the studio behind Hellboy saved by jettisoning Guillermo Del Toro, who wanted to make a third film in his Hellboy series starring Ron Perlman since the second film came out back in 2008. But no matter how much money it was, it really wasn’t worth it – as this 2019 Hellboy, which replaces Del Toro with Neil Marshall and Perlman with David Harbour – is a pale imitation of what Del Toro accomplished with the first two films. Harbour is actually not bad in the role – he’s not Perlman, but he’s pretty good – and Marshall really isn’t the problem either – even if really only the final scene in the movie has real energy to it. The whole thing just kind of feels like the bargain basement knock-off of something really good – and the screenplay doesn’t really give us any reason to care to about anyone in the film. It’s hard to think of a film with less reason to exist other than cash in on a name brand than this film – and Hellboy isn’t even that much of a name (considering the opening weekend box office that is).
The one decision that the filmmakers make which is correct is to not give us another origin story of Hellboy. The film kicks off with Hellboy already with the BFRD working for his “father” (Ian McShane) fighting off paranormal baddies of all kinds. The film opens with him going to Mexico to try and bring back his friend, who hasn’t been seen in weeks after being sent there to investigate a coven of vampires. He finds him – but not in the shape he wants to. But the main thrust of the plot takes place in London, and has to do with a Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a witch once killed by King Arthur himself, who is now being re-assembled by Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or at least, that’s how I thought of him throughout the movie – or to be really honest, I thought of him as Rock Steady, since I always forget which one is which) to come back and usher in a new world order of monsters. Hellboy, of course, doesn’t want that – although he may be the key in one way or another to what comes next. He has a team of sorts – Alice (Sasha Lane, from American Honey – who hopefully at least got paid for her big budget debut), who has powers she doesn’t understand, and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) –who keeps injecting himself with something to prevent him from turning into a monster – which of course means, he will turn into said monster at some point.
What the film really lacks in energy. Strangely enough, the final scene of the movie is exhilarating and fun, and contains the type of high flying, fun action that the rest of the film just didn’t have. I wanted to watch the movie that followed that scene, not the movie that ends with it. As it stands, for much of the movie Harbour is seemingly abandoned with not a very good screenplay – which is bad, because one of the reason to watch a Hellboy movie is his quips, which lack something here as they are poorly written. Harbour tries his best to keep the energy level up, but no one quite seems to want to try. Ian McShane is doing the type of thing he now does on autopilot – the doomed mentor, who is slightly off kilter (he wouldn’t make a good mentor to Batman, but for darker people he’s fine). The talented Sasha Lane is given nothing to do. Milla Jovovich, like Harbour, seems to have the right attitude here – she has anchored more than her share of bargain basement blockbusters, she knows what to do here – but again, doesn’t have the material to work with.
The film was directed by Neil Marshall – who made what may just be the scariest film I have ever seen in a movie theater (The Descent in 2005) – and hasn’t gotten to direct anything nearly as good since then. He clearly has some horror movie roots – he doesn’t shy away from the blood and guts here. People are ripped limb to limb, or in half, and are flayed and splayed a lot in the final act. There are also some inventive monsters – including what looks like a floating vagina with arms – in that finale sequence – but it’s clear the budget didn’t allow them too much of those monsters, as they disappear almost as soon as they arrive.
Perhaps much of my boredom with the film may just be superhero fatigue – and even if Hellboy is a different breed of superhero, he’s still trying to save the world for destruction on a large scale, and to be honest, it’s all a little boring now. And Hellboy brings nothing new to the table – either as a Hellboy movie or a superhero movie.

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