Movie Review: “Hellboy”
Hellboy (David Harbour) is a valuable agent of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. He works under Professor Broom (Ian McShane), the man who raised him since the day he rose from hell. Professor Broom has always been a father to him, but Hellboy has never exactly been able to fit in. With red skin, a tail, horns that have to be shaved constantly, and a very powerful right hand, Hellboy has always felt like an outcast, but he tries to do good. However, he wonders if there is a monster deep within him that will inevitably be unleashed on earth.
Unfortunately, earth is facing a new threat, one that aims to bring all of hell’s monsters to the surface to go to war with humanity. Nimue (Milla Jovovich) is an extremely powerful witch, who has been trapped for centuries. Now, she has returned and has aligned herself with a monster who has a special hatred for Hellboy. Hellboy also learns a troubling prophecy (one that shows him leading the army of the monsters as they destroy humanity). He must find a way to stop Nimue, but must do so without becoming the monster that the prophecy foretold.
The Pros & Cons
The Action (+5pts)
The Supporting Cast (+5pts)
Pro: The Action (+5pts)
There was not a ton of action in this movie, but (when it was happening) it was pretty entertaining. We got Hellboy fighting a variety of different things (I do not want to say exactly what he fights because that could spoil some of the movies better moments), but the action was cool. If you were hoping to see Hellboy in some cool action sequences, this movie has a few scenes that will quench that thirst. Unfortunately, the action was a little too few and far between, but I certainly enjoyed it while it was happening.
The filmmakers managed to get a few different versions of Hellboy in this movie. They had Hellboy in brawling action sequences, they had him with his iconic gun, and there were a few brief moments with him wielding a flaming sword. I would have liked to have seen a lot more of each of these versions of Hellboy. However, the filmmakers decided to focus on other things (I will get into those other things later). I definitely would have liked to have seen more of it, but the action that we did get was fun to watch.
Con: Exposition (-8pts)
This movie had way too much exposition. The filmmakers clearly tried to fit too much into this movie which caused a couple of problems. One of those problems was that, in order to get those things in the movie, the filmmakers needed to give viewers a lot of information. Their method of doing this was to add a bunch of dialogue heavy scenes in which a character is explaining a ton of information to Hellboy.
It was either dialogue about Hellboy’s past, or dialogue explaining other characters that the filmmakers wanted to setup. Either way, there was way too much of it in here. It made the movie feel slow, and to be honest pretty boring at times. Doing this once or twice, briefly, can be forgiven. However, doing it so frequently, and for long durations, definitely hurt the movie.
Pro: Hellboy (+6pts)
I enjoyed David Harbour as Hellboy, and I enjoyed Hellboy’s story (although I had a few issues with it, which I will get into later). I liked Hellboy’s relationship with his dad (Professor Broom), I liked Hellboy’s relationship with Alice, and I liked Hellboy’s struggle with fate. Who is Hellboy? Is he destined to be a hero or a monster?
The character struggles with his destiny. He wants to be a hero, but worries that there is a monster within him that will inevitably be unleashed. His relationships with Alice and his dad were there to make Hellboy feel human, and I thought both characters did a good job of conveying different aspects of Hellboy’s humanity to the audience. He feels responsible for protecting Alice, and he had a uniquely complicated childhood with Professor Broom. I liked the bits of Hellboy’s character development that we got, but I thought the filmmakers should have given more focus to this part of the story.
Con: Cluttered (-6pts)
There were a lot of story elements that had potential. Unfortunately, the filmmakers just had too much to tell with too little time. There was the British branch of agents, Nimue, the giants, the crazy old witch lady, and more. The movie was way too cluttered with antagonists, so that there was no time to properly develop any of them, and there was not enough time to properly develop Hellboy. On top of that, it was so cluttered that some of the storylines made absolutely no sense, but the filmmakers did not have enough screentime to make them make sense. Each of these storylines could have been interesting, but the filmmakers bit off way more than they could chew by trying to cram all of these storylines into one movie.
Pro: The Supporting Cast (+5pts)
When I say that I liked the supporting cast, I am specifically referring to those who played Professor Broom (Ian McShane), Alice (Sasha Lane), and Major Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim). Neither Sasha Lane nor Daniel Dae Kim will blow you away, but they were decent. I liked their characters and I liked their chemistry as a group. Ian McShane, however, is one of those actors that consistently makes his characters so much more interesting than they should be. He makes his characters feel mysterious, and he has a presence that leaves a lasting impression on the movies he is in (even when he is not on screen). The guy improves his movies by giving his roles that unique Ian McShane flavor. Together, the three made a strong supporting cast, but they were not enough to make me forget about the movie’s problems.
Con: Nimue (-6pts)
I had two problems with this character. The first was that she was underdeveloped due to how cluttered the movie was. I have already addressed that, so I will not get into that again here. The other issue was the impact that this character had on Hellboy.
Nimue seemed to be able to manipulate Hellboy, and I really did not understand how or why. She did not seem to do anything special that would justify this, yet Hellboy was manipulated anyway. It made Hellboy come across as mentally weak, which is a shame because if Nimue was developed a little better, the character could have been so much more interesting. Hellboy could have been faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not monsters deserve to be in hell while humans get to be on earth. Are monsters instinctively bad or are they just bad out of circumstance (in their desperation to live in the light)? These are elements of the story that are present if you are willing to dig deep, but giving Nimue a little more development could have brought this moral dilemma front and center. This in turn would have made the entire story a lot more interesting.
Grade: C- (71pts)
Hellboy was a movie that I was looking forward to, hoping that it would be a solid reboot. It definitely had potential, but the filmmakers tried to do way too much with far too little time. The story was cluttered with way too many antagonists, and (by squeezing them all in his movie) there was not nearly enough time to develop any of them. The most disappointing of the antagonists was Nimue, but that is because I thought she had the most potential (due to the moral dilemma she could have made Hellboy face). The filmmakers were also forced to cram in a ton of exposition in order to setup each of the various threats that Hellboy would have to face, which slowed the movie way down.
What worked for this movie was the main character, the supporting protagonists, and the action (the little that we got of it). David Harbour did a fine job as Hellboy, and I liked the character’s relationships with the side characters. Alice and Major Daimio made for a fun group, but Ian McShane played the side character that gave the movie the most depth. At the end of the day, this was a promising reboot, with a strong cast behind it. Unfortunately, the filmmakers tried to cram too much into this story, which made the movie feel slow, incoherent, and (at times) boring.