A cacophonously loud and violently hateful mess, 2019’s Hellboy reboot is clearly the result of a deeply troubled production (and with so many major superhero movies surrounding it, the reasoning behind greenlighting it at all seems hazy), but this backstory is hardly enough reason to forgive it any of its glaring flaws.
British director Neil Marshall replaces original franchise helmer Guillermo del Toro and drags Hellboy (David Harbour) to London to stop an ancient witch who plans on unleashing monsters and plagues across England. The story rarely makes coherent sense, interrupted as it is by constant boring and leadenly-delivered exposition dumps that tell us far too much lore with far too little plot or character.
Performances are mediocre at best – Harbour’s natural presence and Ian McShane’s fiery charisma muted by the lazy dialogue – and often downright awful. Daniel Dae Kim and American Honey’s Sasha Lane are saddled with two of the worst British accents you’ll hear in film – Lane’s, in particular, running the gamut from New Yorker to Aussie – delivering their lines like tired kids who’ve been forced to participate in the school play.
The action fares no better and, though there are some imaginative monster designs, comprehensibility is lost in a frantically edited CG sludge. Hellboy’s effects are really ropey, completely lacking the practical charm of del Toro’s take on the material. Marshall delights in eviscerating screaming civilians in hideously gory ways, but though the disgust factor is high, these deaths lack any sort of impactful physical weight.
That we received this garbled CG mush instead of del Toro’s Hellboy 3 feels like a cruel insult. When Hellboy 2019 was first announced, fans were rightly sceptical, but thoughts of “hey, better than nothing” did the rounds. As it turns out, nothing would have been wildly preferable.
CAST: David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, Stephen Graham
DIRECTOR: Neil Marshall
WRITERS: Andrew Cosby (screenplay), Mike Mignola (comics)
SYNOPSIS: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.