Mike Mignola’s most famous comic creation has led a pretty solid life when it comes to films in the past. Guillermo del Toro’s duology have become cult classics while the two animated direct-to-DVD films were solid flicks. After Hellboy II: The Golden Army came out little over a decade ago, attempts to deliver a third chapter fell through and the reboot switch came down, and this time, Neil Marshall would take over the reigns from del Toro. Sounds promising, right? Wrong. This reimagining of Hellboy fails on every single level in terms of narrative, characters, editing, tone, and visual presentation, resulting in one of the worst comic book films to have been released in recent years.
It’s a sprawling disaster with a script that sounds as if it was hammer-cobbled together by insane chimpanzees on a keyboard, which only makes films like Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad look like cohesive masterpieces of storytelling. Before its release, Mignola bragged about how completely faithful to the source material this film would be, but the story here is a haphazard jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces are barely sticking together. The central plot point is that Nimue (Milla Jovovich) wants to destroy humankind and claim Hellboy (David Harbour) as her newly betrothed king, yet we also have to contend with a vampire in Mexico, giants within a forest in England, Baba Yaga, Arthurian myths and legends, and so much more. It’s a series of sequences and events that don’t mesh together properly and, as a result, becomes too unfocused, which can also be said of its ever-shifting tone.
The dialogue is pure garbage and its humour is non-existent, sounding like as if headache-inducing white-noises are coming out of the characters mouths, especially in the case of its leading actor. Despite the efforts of David Harbour, he simply lacks the charismatic quality of Ron Perlman, and for a lot of the film, he just shouts at everyone and everything in sight, maybe due to the fact that he signed onto this project. The same can also be said of Ian McShane, who looks bored out of his brain as he constantly bickers back and forth with Harbour’s Hellboy, while Stephen Graham as the pig-headed monster is probably the most irritating character in the whole movie. Milla Jovovich actually excels as the villainous Nimue, but she fails to make any impact due to how little she appears throughout.
Not only was this film painful to listen to, but it’s even more painful to look at. The cheapness of it is apparent in every scene as CGI is splashed all over courtesy of obvious green-screen edge, horribly rendered backgrounds and monsters, and fake gallons of blood and gore. Its embarrassing visual effects are only made worse by its atrocious colour palette that makes the works of short student fan-films on Youtube look better by comparison. All of a sudden, Justice League and Green Lantern are starting to look a bit better in terms of visual presentation!
However, the biggest crime of all is that, after a while, you just stop caring. You don’t care if Hellboy stops Nimue and you don’t care who lives or dies here. It’s nothing more than a joyless, garbage pile that lacks any creative vision, imagination, and crucially, both wit and heart. It’s nothing more than a Frankensteinian mishmash of Van Helsing, Underworld and Resident Evil all rolled into one and frankly who wants to sit through that? Whether or not the recent reports of behind-the-scenes chaos are true or false, one thing remains perfectly clear: this film might’ve killed Hellboy film adaptations for the foreseeable future.
Dir: Neil Marshall
Scr: Andrew Cosby
Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Graham, Thomas Haden Church
Prd: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson, Philip Westgren, Carl Hampe, Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner
DOP: Lorenzo Senatore
Music: Benjamin Wallfisch
Run time: 120 mins
Hellboy is out now in cinemas.