Might as well get this out of the way before properly talking about this film. Yes, I am in the same camp of people that feels Guillermo del Toro’s two Hellboy movies were and still are highly underappreciated superhero film and that the fact we never got a third one (and thus never got any sense of closure of the story he wanted to tell) is a great loss for popular culture and modern film. But with that out of the way, the fact that we never got a third Hellboy film wasn’t caused (at least not directly or with malice) by the people involved in in this reboot (whether it is the actors or filmmakers), so it’s unfair to hold the absence of Hellboy 3 in our geekdom towards the likes David Harbour, director Neil Marshall etc., or to judge the reboot more harshly for simply existing in its place. This new Hellboy isn’t a bad film because it’s not a continuation of the previous Hellboy, it is a pretty bad film purely on its own terms and I will explain why in this non-spoiler:
I might as well get some of the positive stuff about this film out of the way. While I don’t think the script really does him any favours since it doesn’t really give him much to work with, but I do like David Harbour as Hellboy despite the make up for the role at times restricting his performance. It will seem pretty unfair to really compare Harbour in the role to that of Ron Perlman. Ever since I’ve started reading Hellboy comics after watching “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, I’ve always had this thought in my head that Ron Perlman’s voice makes him the only pick for Hellboy as his voice perfectly fits the characters sardonic grumpy old man persona (even his version wasn’t straight off the page Hellboy), so I will have to try my best to separate the two. But David Harbour does what most of the 007 actors after Connery does and does his best to separate himself from his predecessor. Harbour is certainly played up a bit more of the “comedic angst” without dialing up to 11. The other positive thing that I kind of liked in this film is the character of Gruagach (voiced by Stephen Graham and performed by Douglas Tait) who for the most part in the same hog-like character that he is from the comics in which he was a pretty pathetic and sad character who wants one simple thing and no matter one he is always down on his luck with the consequences of his poor decisions that I will admit got some decent laughs at me and his arc is one that I at least had some investment in (even if I am not too crazy about how it concluded), although I do find some of lip-sinking for certain moments for this characters to be a little off in places like an English dubbing for an old anime.
Apart of me feels like I might be a lot easier on this film if I wasn’t such a huge of the course material (which I need to start reading again a couple of months ago) since I have in the past have enjoyed such schlocky fantasy action films in the past such as “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”, “Kong: Skull Island” or “300: Rise of an Empire” as guilty pleasure films. But even those sort of films kind of have some sort of standards because a “good” schlocky action film should have something resembling an identity and be aware of their intent and goals with a certain level of consistency. Sadly “Hellboy” is not one of those films that is successful at such a thing since it is one of those films that suffers from a severe identity crisis as it goes from crazy over the top schlocky action that we are not supposed to take seriously and then goes to one of those quieter or moments that are supposed to be pathological and yet I am feeling severely emotionally attached towards this films attempts at characteristics for many reasons. The main reasons the films attempts at pathos doesn’t really work for me is the fact that the film is pretty much tackling the same character arc and themes of the 2004 “Hellboy” film, which tackled the metaphor of boyhood into manhood (that is also used as a way to critique on the then fantasy trope of destiny) so much better than this because the crazy set pieces and series of actions/consequences that lead to such development in a more organic way and at least allows its emotions to have some breathing room rather than giving you this sense that you have to catch your breath every minute or so in order to catch up with the next random set piece of plotline that doesn’t allows its character stuff to resonate. The films going for the whole “boyhood to manhood” theme is also a problem for a film that claims to be “more faithful” to the comic books since I am not convinced such claims are actually true. The reason why I say this is because I know this since the theme of “boyhood to manhood” was a new concept that brought to the table and not something that was present in the comics since the main appeal of Hellboy is that he is the grumpy anti-social old man type who fights demons and goes home to drink a beer as a way to cope with his isolated nature. While Guillermo del Toro wasn’t 100% faithful to that of the comics, it is similar to that of first Raimi Spider-Man film in which it is both faithful and unique to that of the comic it is based on as the director wanted to offer weightier narratives and ideas than people might have expected, yet were brave enough to pursue their own styles of filmmaking with integrity and showed a healthy disregard to any kind of franchise maintenance or fan service.
While I the film wasn’t one of those bad films that made me want to either go on a killing spree or make me question why do I watch or review films in the first place, I would almost say this film is similar to that “Batman v. Superman Dawn of Justice” as this is one of those films that perfectly fits the “driving pass a trainwreck” metaphor because I am almost fascinated on why this film ultimately didn’t work as a narrative rather than being at all frustrated at the piece like I am with a lot of bad films. There are plenty of moments in this film that I think I would have liked a lot more if the context of the whole picture justified such a scene. For example, there was a scene in which Hellboy travels to England for a Wild Hunt and fight giants which at first was pretty cool with how it displays how powerful and resourceful Hellboy is in the field beyond using his guns and fists,. Yet both the bad CGI and the fact that most of the scene almost came off as filler for the entire picture since outside of one rather thinly veiled plot thread, almost none of it really goes anywhere and it puts the pacing of the film to an awkward standstill for 20 minutes. In fact, the film almost feels like a series of unrelated short films made for Netflix based on one shot stories from the Hellboy comics made, only for the filmmakers to realise that they went over-budget and had to think of an overall framework to tie all the sequences together just in hopes to make a profit at the box office. Apparently this is one of those films similar to that of “Fant4stic” in which the production suffered from a lot of drama in which David Harbour, the director Neil Marshall and the eight producers that worked on the film simply could not get along since no one could agree on what exactly they wanted this film to be and it REALLY shows in the end product with its rather contradictory nature.
In terms of visuals, outside of some pretty decent make up jobs for Harbour’s Hellboy, despite how I think it restricts his performance at times, the film is quite the disaster in terms of visual effects. In concept, I should like what the film was going for with it trying to go for a rather “heavy metal” aesthetic in terms of its visuals similar to that of “Thor: Ragnarok”, but I think the films rather low budget really limits what you can do with such an ambition goal as some of the visuals border on the quality that I would expect from the Syfy Channel. Speaking of aesthetics, I don’t think the films R-Rating really works overall or works to its full potential since I agree with a lot of other critics out there and think that the gore and excessive swearing really does not work in the films favour with it really comes off as rather juvenile and gratuitous since it doesn’t really add any mature context to the film or enforce any proper adult ideas to the picture.
Sorry if this review doesn’t come off as rich or informative as some of my other reviews, but “Hellboy” really is one of those films that is just a confusing and fascinating film for all the wrong reasons with what it wants to be, with what it doesn’t want to be and even what it ended up being despite its intends. As I’ve said before, the film is pretty the kind of film that you can want to watch just to wonder how it came to be with its rather contradictory and messy feel.
My score for “Hellboy” will be a score of 2 3D Nazi Goggles out of 5.