'Hellboy' (2019) A Rebooted Movie Review
Blah Blah Blah…
Alright, so this is the part where I go over either my very extended or very limited personal history with the source materials, originals, prequels, sequels, spin-offs, porno spoofs, whatever. You know what? This is the fourth movie in a row that I would be doing the same God damn thing all over again for basically no real reason. Because at the end of the day, this is the fourth God damn movie to irritate and greatly disappoint me in a freaking row. So we’re going to do the fast-forward version so I can get to why 2019’s Hellboy irked me in all the wrong ways.
Hellboy Comic Books: Never read them.
Guillermo Del Toro Hellboy Movies: I liked them.
Video Games/Extensive Reads/Graphic Novels/Toys/Etc.: I have no connections with in any way shape or form.
History Lesson Over
Now that we got that right out of the way, let’s get into the actual movie at hand. 2019’s Hellboy reboot is a mess in tone and storytelling. Which wouldn’t have bothered me so much this time around, since I’m honestly so used to that sort of thing at this point in my life, if it hadn’t have been for the fact that there was so much promise and potential trying so desperately to break its way through the prison that this film keeps it all captive within. David Harbour as Hellboy is an amazing choice for filling in the shoes that Ron Perlman left behind, the R rating is an admirable approach with its graphic violence and slight horror elements, director Neil Marshall has shown talent behind the camera in the past, the creature designs are imaginative, and I personally love Milla Jovovich in basically anything. What the f*ck happened here? I’m not going to play nice or sugarcoat it, I’m seriously asking; what the f*ck went wrong with this picture? This should have been easy, there is no reason why this cluster f*ck of a script landed its way into theaters. No reason. At all. Is it the worst film I’ve seen all year or will it come close to making my bottom ten? Not even remotely, but this was extremely frustrating to see the potential fighting so hard to come up so depressingly short.
The PlotClick thumbnail to view full-size
I’m going to try and recall as much of the basic plot as I possibly can, be patient with me here. Okay. Back in the days of King Arthur and Merlin… yeah, this involves them somehow… there was a Milla Jovovich witch, Jovo-Witch? Sure. A Jovo-Witch that spread a horrible flesh-eating plague onto the innocents of the human world. Until one day, Arthur and Merlin put an end to her shenanigans by chopping her body up into a bunch of separate pieces and hiding them all throughout the world. Cut to the modern day when Hellboy (David Harbour) must figure out a way to stop the Jovo-Witch before she starts up her crazy antics once again.
In the middle of all that there is a luchador vampire bestie that dies five minutes in during a wrestling match, giants that amount to nothing except a five minute green screen action scene, Nazi-scientists that do Nazi-scientist things in the 1940s, a shapeshifting man-pig that wants revenge on Hellboy for not letting him be a little girl, another witch that eats babies and wants Hellboy’s eye because his eyes are pretty, a secret organization that Hellboy and his surrogate father work for which I have no clue how it functions in this universe at all, a psychic bestie that randomly tags along, a hothead agent that transforms into a cheetah, the Excalibur sword being used to bring on the apocalypse, some zombies to pad out the runtime, and Winston Churchill’s desk. I don’t know why it had to be specifically Winston Churchill’s desk in this movie, but it’s there. Hooray?
As one could easily tell, this film is not light on its fair share of plot threads. Seriously, the writers seemed to have thrown everything into this screenplay that they could and then some. Throughout the entire film, I felt as though too much was going on at the same time feeling that nothing was ever happening. We go from one scene to the next with very little in the way of a solid through-line to connect any two plot points and usually almost always amount to absolutely nothing when all is said and done. We, as the audience, are aimlessly wandering through this cinematic world with no direction or end goal in sight. We simply go from one plot point to another, yet it’s as though the previous points we visited never mattered at all. The film is a string of events happening for no good reason while squeezing in copious amounts of exposition and flashbacks to needlessly catch the viewers up to speed. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my notebook to this movie… So the megatons of information that spewed out of these exposition-bots went in one ear and out the other for myself. Whoops.
At no point did I ever feel as though I were following an actual narrative unfolding. More or less what it felt like were as though I was watching the story stumble and flop all over the place as I had no choice, but to sit there and keep watching until it eventually laid lifeless on the floor. With its dying breath, looking around in confusion as it asked me, “What in the hell just happened?”. I wish I could give this movie an answer on that question because I have the same exact inquiry as well. I haven’t a clue what happened to you, Movie. I haven’t the single, slightest iota of a clue on that one. All I know is that you convulsed uncontrollably for about two hours straight, including the three post-credit scenes, and then you thankfully flatlined. It took a while, but it finally died. Lucky. I have to live with what it has done now. What it did has left me in such confusion though that I don’t know how to even properly discuss the film through my critique here. I’m just rambling now. This is a crazy man rambling. Somebody help me?!
As unfocused as the story was, the tone was practically non-existent. This was probably one of the most tone-deaf films I had seen in a while. There were scenes that had no grasp on whether it wanted to be funny, exhilarating, or sad… so it decided to do them all at once. No joke, this movie whiplashed from being jovial to serious in a millisecond with no sort of segue to link the two emotions. Never was there an attempt to earn an emotional moment, nothing was ever presented to build up a scene’s arc from going so radically different out of nowhere, things just happened and that was that. It’s as though the filmmakers really didn’t know whether they wanted a scene to be comedic or dramatic or horrific, so they settled for the most awkward compromise of both worlds and it does not work.
Whenever a dramatic moment occurred, I thought it was supposed to be played as a joke. Then the joke never happened so I was left with nothing and had no way of taking it seriously. Then when the jokes came in, and they were supposed to be actually funny, I couldn’t make a peep. And when it came to its briefest of touches from the horror genre, it left zero impact. It were as though my body rejected everything that this movie was trying to make me digest. It said, “No thanks, I’ll just have a side of cyanide”. I don’t know why it was so difficult to settle on a tone for this movie, but if it was trying to be funny then it never was. And if it was trying to be serious then it also failed at that. Creating a ridiculously frustrating rollercoaster ride; as if the machine kept malfunctioning so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be deeply underwhelmed by its jerky motion or fear for my life that this thing was going to launch me out of my seat.
A Fairly Accurate Depiction of the Tone Set in One Scene
Out of nowhere, there would be lines that would come across as particularly… how do I phrase it? Deadpool-ish. Dialog that would be spontaneously self-aware as though the characters were under the impression that they were in a movie. Only happening in the rarest of instances, but when a line of dialog like that did pop up it was immediately distracting. Not only is the movie confusing its tones of drama, horror, and comedy; it’s also unsure if it’s taking its own world seriously or not. Characters go from being in terror about the apocalypse inevitably knocking on their front door, then sporadically crack wise about how they have to kill the antagonist so they don’t “show up for the sequel”. This film’s tone is a headscratcher, man. It really is. I don’t know what to make of it. I want to be charmed and have fun with it, but then my neck snaps with the next wild tonal skull-f*cking.
A majority of the jokes, especially in the first act, are pretty bad and on the nose puns that are forcefully written into these eye-rolling situations. Hellboy receiving his first mission is called a “giant problem”. When Hellboy asks what the problem was, the answer was… “giants”. Ha. Ha. Ha. There are a number of similar jokes that show up throughout, but most of which remain mostly in the first act. Every time a pun like that was uttered out of a cast members mouth, I sat there and groaned. I don’t know if that was the intent, but I’m going on a hunch to say that making the viewer groan in agony should never be the priority of a writer. Stop that.
The R RatingClick thumbnail to view full-size
I don’t take back what I said earlier about the R rating of this film, I truly do find it commendable that this movie wanted to go for more blood and gore and vulgarity than what is typically seen in a comic book blockbuster flick. Personally, I’d love to see more R rated action movies as they are in short supply nowadays. That said, at no point did the gore add anything to the experience. It was there to be there and that’s really about it. Don’t get me wrong, to an extent, it was one of the few things that provided me some type of entertainment. It simply wasn’t all that much and certainly wasn’t enough to carry the film. There were a couple of cool and gnarly looking deaths, nothing to rave about however. If I want truly inspired gore effects in my action films then there is a plethora to choose from over 2019’s Hellboy.
Contains SPOILERS, but shows a lot of the onscreen carnage and ill-timed humor.
The Special EffectsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Visually speaking, the cinematography and the effects work ranges from pretty good to pretty good for a first year college student. There were times I was impressed by a few of the creature designs, but sometimes the CGI was so cartoonish looking or the green screen was so obvious that it immediately took me out of the moment. Occasionally, it looked fine. Then there would be scenes that appeared as though the crew shot on a cheap set for an hour to randomly stick it into the movie to pad out the runtime. Say what you will about the Del Toro Hellboy films, no one could deny that they were both fairly visually stunning with some remarkable practical effects. Granted, some of the CGI was also subpar, but was sparingly used. 2019’s Hellboy makes sure to use CGI any time that it feels like it and sometimes it’s pretty awful to witness.
Anyone who takes one look at David Harbour’s performance as Hellboy and they can probably tell that he is trying his damndest to make this film work. Somehow, some way, he’s giving it every ounce of talent in his body to give this movie a soul. Breathe every bit of life that he can into the screenplay. The dedication that he clearly showed physically for this role is more than admirable and I respect this man very much for all the hard work he put into this project. I give credit to Harbour for trying, I just wish that it paid off because this movie doesn’t do the man any favors. In terms of his character, I want to like Hellboy. I really do, but I’m not given all that much to care about. I don’t feel like I know anything about this guy, yet somehow I’m fed massive amounts of information about his past and origins. I know everything about this dude and nothing at all.
The character arc that Hellboy himself is supposedly going through is also completely muddled as I am unsure exactly what he was supposed to have learned by the end of his journey. Randomly interjected into the second act, it is introduced to the audience that Hellboy has some doubts about what he does professionally with killing all these creatures for this secret organization. Claiming that maybe they’re simply entities that wish to have a life of fulfillment which is being restricted by the actions of Hellboy and his associates. Also including that maybe the Jovo-Witch really isn’t all that evil and might actually want peace for their kind. Personally, if these themes were developed further I actually think this could have been a really interesting path to take these characters. Sadly, it is dropped about as quickly as it was introduced since the very next scene Hellboy is back on track with wanting to kill the Jovo-Witch. Jovo-Witch is also back to being a completely generic baddie with rather befuddling motivations; she wants Hellboy to be her evil king, but the actions that she takes to try making that happen make zero sense to me as to how they are supposed to sway him. I would say what she does to ‘accomplish her goals’, but it involves spoilers and I don’t feeling like delving that much deeper into the matter.
When it comes to the background info on Hellboy, I can probably recite it with no problem. Talking specifically about who this character is, what his personality is like, things he loves or enjoys or even hates; I dunno. I legitimately do not know. Is Hellboy evenly tempered or a hothead? Meh. He’s loud and gets mad sometimes. Is he cocky or naïve? I mean, maybe? Kind of. Does he have any sort of quirks? He’s big and red. See what I’m saying? There’s not much to go off of here. This isn’t a fleshed out, three-dimensional character. This is an avatar to kick some ass and deliver some one-liners. In those departments, Harbour does what he can with the material and handles the action sequences terrifically, but the movie sucks at giving him any sort of support in return. He deserves far more than this, he is a phenomenally talented actor that I want to see flourish on film far more. This should not be the material he is left with. Try harder.
The Family TiesClick thumbnail to view full-size
A particularly major issue I also had was the fact that all these friendships and relationships that Hellboy supposedly has with his co-stars are so superficially interwoven into the script that I found myself never really buying the fact that these people even know each other. The relationship that Hellboy has with his father spans all of maybe three to four scenes in the entire movie and has no effort put into it in the slightest. They’re father and son-ish and their chemistry is a stereotypical father and son-ish relationship. Hellboy’s psychic ally catapults herself into the plot and really has no real reason to be present in the rest of the movie, but for whatever reason Hellboy thinks it’s best to bring her into these lethal situations for plot contrivances apparently. Even the relationships between Hellboy and his enemies seems so forced that I sat there muttering to myself, “Sure. Why not.”. Because there’s no true effort being put forth into the writing of these personal connections, they are there to move the broken narrative along with lazy motivations for everyone.
We have reached the part where I summarize my assessment of the movie I just spent the last couple hours typing about in a nice little paragraph. Let’s cut the crap, I didn’t like it. It was relatively bad and yet another disappointment I have trudged through recently. It is a lackluster attempt to power thrust this character with his own cinematic universe and franchise without the proper structure put in place first. There were too many cooks in the kitchen and what we are left with is a piece of sh*t pie. With a nice little angry red cherry on top that is David Harbour. There, that is my analysis on the Hellboy reboot. It blows. It’s not terrible and I can tell that there is a soul lurking somewhere in there, it is simply lost in all of the studio notes that wanted to kickstart a franchise with a train wreck. Good job!
Here, if someone comes across this on Netflix, maybe they could have an ‘okay’ time with it. So long as their brains are set to ‘Total Shutdown’ then everything should be mostly fine. It’s a pretty hollow popcorn flick that doesn’t offer much, but it is constantly doing something. Not entirely sure as to what it is doing, but it’s doing something. So make sure not to put much, or really any money to renting or buying this film. When it arrives on the movie channels or on-demand or some streaming service, give it about fifteen minutes or so. If it doesn’t do anything for the viewer by that point then it never will. There’s my recommendation, I guess.
Which 'Hellboy' Movie Was Your Favorite?
Which cinematic interpretation of Hellboy was your favorite so far?
That’s All Folks…
Hellboy 2019… it was another thing that I watched. What did you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a hell of a day!
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© 2019 John Plocar