The two “Hellboy” films directed by Guillermo del Toro, 2004’s “Hellboy” and 2008’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” have gone on to earn themselves a bit of a cult following in the years since their release.
Many fans found themselves wanting a third installment in del Toro’s trilogy, but that became unlikely when the funding for a “Hellboy III,” which would have needed an estimated $120 million budget, could not be secured.
Instead, the decision was made to scrap del Toro’s third film and reboot the franchise with a much smaller budget, around $50 million.
This “Hellboy” reboot sees “Stranger Things” star David Harbour take over the titular role from Ron Perlman, and Neil Marshall, famous for directing episodes of “Game of Thrones,” was brought on to helm the project.
The story follows Hellboy, a brash, yet heroic demon, as he travels around England attempting to stop the resurrection of the evil Blood Queen, who was banished by King Arthur long ago. This quest leads Hellboy to make several major discoveries about himself and his destiny. He questions his place in the world and ultimately has to decide whether or not to save the people who ridicule him.
If that plot summary seems vague, that’s because it’s hard to tell what is really happening during most of the runtime in this cluttered and unfocused new reboot of “Hellboy.”
The basic plot is Hellboy trying to stop the Blood Queen, but how he goes about doing that is hard to explain. The film just takes the character and the plot in a million different directions until they somehow stumble upon the film’s climax.
Over the course of this film, Hellboy fights vampires, giants, demons, weird pig-people, fairies and a million other fictional creatures, which might have been interesting if the story had called for all of that. Instead, it feels like the filmmakers just decided it had been too long since the last action sequence, and so they haphazardly threw another creature into the film to give Hellboy something to punch.
Even that could have been somewhat entertaining, but the action sequences are so by-the-numbers and full of awful CGI that they end up being headache-inducing. It feels like you’re watching a bad video game without the fun of being allowed to play it. Half the film is just a computer-generated mess that fills the time between poorly executed exposition dumps.
And that’s entirely what the plot of “Hellboy” consists of: exposition dumps.
Instead of letting the film’s story flow smoothly from point to point or letting the audience piece together the mystery of Hellboy and the Blood Queen themselves, these characters just spew information at audience members until they wish someone would set fire to the projector it’s playing from. It’s lazy, it’s boring and it puts no effort into trying to keep the audience's attention.
The two standout performances in the film come from Harbour as Hellboy and Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen, though they stand out for entirely different reasons.
Harbour stands out because he’s basically the one good thing about the film. Despite the film being a trainwreck, Harbour still captures the spirit of the character, from his intense sarcasm and audaciousness to his more menacing and scary side as well. Harbour takes the awful script and dialogue he’s given and makes the most of it by doubling down on what makes the character of Hellboy fun to watch. He doesn’t quite save the movie, but he gives it his all.
Jovovich, on the other hand, feels like she is reading from a teleprompter that’s off camera. She’s not scary, she’s devoid of any emotion and she gives about the same performance you would expect from a piece of wood with a face drawn on it. Granted, she wasn’t given a lot to work with, but still, her performance was painful to witness.
This new iteration of “Hellboy” is hard to watch, especially if you’re a fan of the previous films.
The entire film is just so uninspired and lifeless. It’s hard to care about anything happening in it, even if you actively try. I want to call it a swing and a miss, but it’s not even that. It feels more like a half-hearted attempt to bunt the ball, but still missing anyway.
I can’t imagine any circumstance in which watching this new “Hellboy” film would be worth it. If you’re at all interested in it, then I would recommend just going back and watching the 2004 film or its sequel. Even if you’ve seen them already, watching those movies again would still provide a better overall experience than seeing this one for the first time.