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Feature Article

Hellboy (2019) Review: A Demonic Disappointment

Hell no.

Mike Mignola's Hellboy is one of the great comic book creations of the 1990s, and like all the best heroes, he's a fascinating, unique character with a great backstory. He's a wise-cracking demonic paranormal investigator who must fight his own inner conflicts and contradictions, and reconcile his demonic origins while fighting monsters alongside his human colleagues. It was this complex personality that drew Guillermo Del Toro to the material, and he produced and directed the movies Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), both starring Ron Perlman in the title role. While neither movie was a huge box office hit, they were warmly received by critics and fans.

Sadly, after many years trying to get Hellboy 3 off the ground, in early 2017 Del Toro confirmed that it wasn't going to happen. Instead we have this complete franchise reboot. Stranger Things star David Harbour has now taken on the lead role, while directorial reigns have been handed to Neil Marshall, best known for his work on shows such as Game of Thrones and Lost in Space, as well as movies like The Descent and Doomsday.

Much has been made of the fact that this latest Hellboy movie taps into the horror-influenced side of Mignola's comic books, taking the material in a darker direction than Del Toro's more family-friendly action/fantasy films. On the face of it, this is a smart move. Del Toro is one of modern fantasy cinema's greatest filmmakers, and any attempt to match his genre-blending ambition and visual invention would almost certainly be doomed to failure. But if you're going to strip away these elements, then you better have something compelling to replace them, and this is where Marshall's movie comes up woefully short.

No Caption Provided

As in the comics, Hellboy is an employee of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a covert organisation dedicated to fighting monsters and stopping paranormal threats. A seemingly routine job in Mexico to extract a fellow agent goes wrong, and a distraught Hellboy is pulled back to BPRD headquarters. He is dispatched on a new mission by his adoptive father and BPRD boss Professor Broom (Ian McShane), on a mission that sends him to England to help stop some fearsome giants who are tearing up the countryside. But things don't go according to plan there either, and soon Hellboy is teamed up with surly military agent Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) and psychic pal Alice (Sasha Lane) to stop the return of Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), an ancient demoness who was thwarted in the Middle Ages but is back to claim Hellboy as her king and wreak her vengeance on the land.

There's a lot going on here. Writer Andrew Cosby took inspiration from three of Mignola's limited series (Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury), and the result is that nothing ever feels like it's part of a single consistent story. Throughout the movie, characters and subplots are introduced then quickly forgotten, and there is an over-reliance on exposition and flashbacks to plug the narrative gaps. It's understandable that Marshall might want to incorporate as many elements from the source material as possible, but when some familiar roles (Kroenen, Lobster Johnson) are basically reduced to cameos, you wonder what the point was if it's going to interfere with the narrative flow.

The movie's problems sadly don't stop there. A talented cast do their best, but the clunky dialogue and hamfisted attempts at humor result in some surprisingly weak performances. Lost star Kim struggles with an underwritten role as Daimio, a gruff agent with a dark secret, while Lane is mostly given a bunch of one-liners that fall flat. There is an attempt to give Nimue more depth than might be expected for this sort of villainous role, but Jovovich doesn't get enough screen time to really develop her character. Worst of all is Gruagach, Nimue's huge, hulking, pig-faced assistant, rendered in CG and voiced by Stephen Graham (most noted for his work on HBO's Boardwalk Empire). Graham can be a powerful and intense actor, but here he's reduced to playing a deeply annoying, pointlessly foul-mouthed monster who pretty much ruins every scene he's in.

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As for Harbour, there are occasional scenes where we see the power that he could've brought to this role, as Hellboy is seduced by Nimue, leading him to question why is fighting alongside the humans against "his kind." These are the elements that make Hellboy such a fascinating character, and Marshall deserves credit for attempting to weave the character's backstory into the main narrative, rather than give us just another origin movie. But while Harbour does get to flex his dramatic muscles a couple of times, it's at the expense of the other elements--the humor, the compassion, the camaraderie--that Perlman brought so vividly to his version of the character.

There's no denying that Hellboy fully grabs the opportunity provided by its R-rating. This is a gory movie--heads, limbs, and guts are thrown around with wild abandon, especially toward the end as demons descend on London. But the high level of bloodshed doesn't really add anything. The movie might be packed with monsters, but it's never scary, and the over-reliance on digital blood quickly becomes tiresome. There are a few impressive physical effects--Hellboy himself looks great, and the most effectively spooky sequence comes when he confronts the half-blind disfigured witch Baba Yaga. But the CG for the monsters and action scenes elsewhere frequently falls short of the standards expected from modern blockbusters, giving the movie a disappointingly cheap look.

It's perhaps unfair to constantly compare Marshall's film to Del Toro's Hellboy movies. However, it's hard not to when this Hellboy gets things so wrong. The movie's ending--plus a mid-credits sequence--clearly set up a sequel, so if it happens, perhaps the filmmakers will get a chance to correct the mistakes here. Harbour remains a great choice to play the character, and it will be a shame if this is the last time we see him in the role. But ultimately this is not the Hellboy movie fans wanted to see him in.

The GoodThe Bad
Harbour is well cast, and gets some
impressive dramatic scenes
Story is a mess
Makes full use of its R-ratingHumor falls flat
Characters underdeveloped
Digital effects frequently poor
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

mondodan

Dan Auty

Firmly of the opinion that there is no film that isn't improved by the addition of an exploding head or kung-fu zombie.
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GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for doa2169
DOA2169

IF you go into this movie with extreme expectations, then yes I could see how you could call it "a demonic disappointment". If you go in with an expectation to be entertained for 2 hours, then you will probably enjoy the movie.

Is Hellboy going to win an Oscar? No. Is Hellboy going to help you forget your troubles for 2 hours? (which by the way is why movies were invented AND is also why movies are America's number 1 export) Yes.

Avatar image for Cashmoney007
Cashmoney007

Fans: We want a Hellboy 3!

Film Industry: Nah, you want a remake of Hellboy!

Avatar image for greek5
greek5

Its funny how you guys allow comments on this movie article, but not on that captain marvel nonsense

Avatar image for Mogan
Mogan

@greek5: Given how awful this community can get, that was probably the right call.

Avatar image for nikon133
nikon133

They (filmmakers) should really make a habit of bringing source material authors into script and film making process. Even if they cost more than some of the stars. Which I doubt.

Avatar image for gaijin
Gaijin

Another sad tired "reboot" from sad tired hollyweird. Yawn.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

Humm. I really didn't like Del Toros version. Sad to see they haven't improved it.

Avatar image for Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

So it's more representative of the first trailer. Which is a testament to how much trailers can lie because the second one looked great. Shame.

Avatar image for saturatedbutter
SaturatedButter

I can't wait until this fad ends. Deadpool pulled off the R-rated comedy super-hero thing, and now we're going get a ton of terrible copycats.

Avatar image for asultana121x
Asultana121x

The past few years critics have been complete morons and have been wrong in their reviews 90% of the time, so frankly I don't give a rat's ass what they say. I'll see the movie for myself this weekend and judge.

Avatar image for Hardcoreehb
Hardcoreehb

@asultana121x: First reviews are just opinions. Second you can only claim they have been wrong 90% of the time if you have watched every movie the past few years

Avatar image for asultana121x
Asultana121x

@Hardcoreehb: yes they are opinions and I choose to disagree with their opinions. Also, I watch a massive amount of movies and TV shows on a weekly basis, and I follow entertainment sites and read up on this stuff daily, so I know what I'm talking about.

Avatar image for skippert
skippert

@asultana121x: That is your opinion...

Avatar image for bigdavex
BigDaveX

So, they tried for Batman Begins, and instead ended up with Fant4stic. Why am I not surprised?

Online
Avatar image for joey2010
joey2010

So, I guess this movie will be rebooted again in a few years, just like 2016's Suicide Squad.

Is this going to be the legacy of DC films? cos it's pathetic at this point.

Avatar image for Acillatem1993
Acillatem1993

@joey2010: Not disagreeing or anything, but Hellboy ain't DC.

Avatar image for joey2010
joey2010

@Acillatem1993: Thanks for pointing that out. He's in Injustice 2 (game) so I just assumed he was from DC like the rest of the characters. Oh well.

Avatar image for joey2010
joey2010

LOL Why have gamespot writers been making me laugh hysterically recently?

Avatar image for mezzanine58
Mezzanine58

@joey2010: You've been smoking more weed? That's the only reason I can think of.

Avatar image for richardcranium_
richardcranium_

The trailers were hot garbage so no surprise here.

Avatar image for cottonfly
CottonFly

No, Hellboy does NOT look great. He looks rubbish compared to the original. And his tiny little left hand....would have been much better if they just CGI'd the character.

I'm a huge Hellboy fan, but I am absolutely skipping this flop of a movie.

Avatar image for Litchie
Litchie

"There are a few impressive physical effects--Hellboy himself looks great"

Weird. First trailer I saw for this movie showed a really badly made Hellboy. Looked like a mask that was annoying to wear and hard to speak through. Thought they were gonna fix it for the actual movie, but they stuck with it. So no, he did not look great. Hellboy from 2004 looks ten times better.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup
uninspiredcup

This didn't require rebooting. Could have easily made a trilogy.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

So, instead of just letting Del Toro make his third film, they decide on a reboot with a lesser director (and I actually like Marshall) and lesser cast (I like them too). And they end up with a lesser film. There's a lesson to be learned here. I guess we'll see after the weekend is done if this reboot was worth it. I suspect not.

Avatar image for boblaurel
boblaurel

This is what happens when you give a sh!t speech about our President. You David Harbour have been Trumped.

Avatar image for saturatedbutter
SaturatedButter

@boblaurel:

This message brought to you by the people who always tell you to stop inserting politics where they don't belong.

Avatar image for pongman1975
Pongman1975

@boblaurel: im sure Mr Harbour is losing mega sleep over your comment lol

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@boblaurel: How tf does any of this have to do with Trump?

Avatar image for cetaepsilon
cetaepsilon

@Pierce_Sparrow:

Trump has divine power to smite his enemies. From Bush to Avenatti you're not seeing a pattern there ?

Avatar image for boblaurel
boblaurel

@Pierce_Sparrow: You have internet put it to use.

Avatar image for pongman1975
Pongman1975

@boblaurel: why? Whats the point?

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@boblaurel: So your reply to me questioning your absurd nonsense is to waste my time researching your absurd nonsense? Why would I?

Avatar image for Andy639_basic
Andy639_basic

@Pierce_Sparrow: David Harbour said something mean about the rancid cheeto in the white house, ergo a movie starring him that's bad... despite his performance being one of the few things gaining praise... is somehow the result of that?

I don't fucking know I don't try and figure out the logic of Trump supporters.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

Yea, I was afraid of this. Oh well. I was luke warm to begin with, and this confirms many of my suspicions. I'll wait for it to hit streaming services.

Avatar image for davillain-
DaVillain-

This is what happens when you don’t have either Ron Perlman or Del Toro in charge. The Directors could've just made Hellboy 3. But nope, they randomly decided Hellboy needed reboot.

I'll wait till it hits Redbox. I'm more hype for Endgame this month anyways.

Avatar image for KiriharaZro
KiriharaZro

When they announced this reboot they say it'll be more dark and mature, and it ended with the same stupid jokes like in the other 2 films.

Avatar image for srfilk86
srfilk86

Just let Gillerrmmererrro Del Tllerrrlorlo make it the right way.

Avatar image for cottonfly
CottonFly

@srfilk86: Too late for that now.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

@srfilk86: Not gonna happen. Del Toro tried to make a third movie, but all of the studios turned him down. No idea why. The movies were good and I don't think they bombed.

Avatar image for elwyn5150
elwyn5150

"As in the comics, Hellboy is an employee of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a covert organisation"

Nope. That's only in the first Del Toro film.

In the comics, in the year 1952, Hellboy was granted honorary human status by the United Nations. The BPRD and HB are regularly sent out for investigations and interact with the public in broad daylight in the HB & The BPRD 1952 onwards series.

Avatar image for happynoodleboy7
happynoodleboy7

Surprising absolutely nobody.

Avatar image for Barighm
Barighm

Not surprised. Even in the commercials the dialog fell flat.

Avatar image for pongman1975
Pongman1975

I think reviewer "reviews" too much. I'm just a dude thats gona take my girl to the movies to see Hellboy. I bet I enjoy it more than what is portrayed in some dissected review. It seems to be a problem in everything that comes out these days. I appreciate things for what they are, not for what I want them to be.

Avatar image for sparent180
SParent180

@pongman1975: I would agree if the movie was getting better reviews elsewhere but critics seem to be in agreement that this movie isn't good.

Now that doesn't mean you aren't going to enjoy the movie. I've disliked movies that received positives reviews and liked movies that got poor reviews but when a majority of reviewers are in agreement it's usually a good indication of a movie's, or any product's, quality.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

@pongman1975: So critics are people like us who like to watch movies. Sometimes they like those movies, sometimes they don't. This critic did their job. If you watch it and like it, great! That won't change whether or not it's a good movie.

Avatar image for MigGui
MigGui

@pongman1975: I think the reviewer didn’t appreciate it as it is, because it is terrible, then tried to put in words why is that. I don’t see this review as one of those meta-analysis that only makes sense to the writer.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800
gamingdevil800

Maybe it could of benefited from taking a more serious tone instead of cringey jokes.

Avatar image for joey2010
joey2010

@gamingdevil800:

LOOOOL ''Demonic disappointment'' had me on the floor.

Avatar image for cottonfly
CottonFly

@gamingdevil800: That is what I was hoping for, but they gone and screwed it up.