Movie Review: ‘HELLBOY’ a shameful reimagining void of fun, heart

Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Preston Barta // Features Editor


Rated R, 121 minutes.
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim and Thomas Haden Church

I, like so many, showed aggravated teeth at the thought of Guillermo del Toro’s beloved HELLBOY films getting a revamp. Teases of a possible trilogy closer were tossed around the cinema court for some time since 2008’s HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, but it never happened. It’s a personal franchise to del Toro, similar to James Gunn and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, so imagining someone else holding the reins and recasting the titular demon that Ron Perlman made so uniquely his was damnation ready to unfold.

Giving it every effort to wow and surprise me, the new HELLBOY sinks to the lowest of depths and lands somewhere around the seventh circle of hell. While David Harbour does his best as our new beefy, red hero, he can’t save the movie from collapsing on screen. 

Helmed by THE DESCENT and GAME OF THRONES director Neil Marshall, the movie covers many of the familiar beats of the 2004 HELLBOY origin story: During World War II, the rock-fisted Hellboy (Stranger Things’ David Harbour) is summoned from the lake of fire by Nazis in search of incredible power in the later days of the war. Big Red is saved by Professor Bloom (Ian McShane) and a war hero named Lobster Johnson (a scene-stealing and not featured enough Thomas Haden Church) and raised under the roof of the United States Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. 

A significant threat appears when an ancient sorceress, Nimue the Queen of Blood (Milla Jovovich), has risen to wipe humanity off the map in the fashion of Thanos, while also trying to lure Hellboy’s demonic side over to the dark side to fulfill her destiny as ruler of hell. 

There was some promise at the film’s opening when McShane is giving us the lowdown about Hellboy’s world. McShane dropping an F-bomb with such style made me giggle and recognize the film’s R rating within seconds. Then we are drowned in exposition from there on on out. You spend so much time listening to characters explain what’s going on that you forget to give a damn about any of them, most notably Hellboy.

Milla Jovovich in a scene from ‘HELLBOY.’ Courtesy of Lionsgate.

It’s as if the filmmakers were so fearful of audiences making a big deal about it appearing too similar to del Toro’s films that they packed it with as much information as they could to make it feel fresh. But for how many times we jump around the globe and are served plot, what this movie needed to do was pump the brakes and concentrate on character. What made del Toro’s films so lively and adventurous was the character camaraderie. You won’t find an endearing scene like Hellboy and Abe Sapien singing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” here.

Harbour, no doubt, captures the towering presence of Hellboy, but the script doesn’t give him the properly timed one-liners or charm to give his rendition impact. This is mostly due to the film’s highly uneven tone, which will go from being a silly R-rated movie that 12-year-olds would enjoy to a needlessly violent feature chasing DEADPOOL’s blood-soaked comedy. So many jokes fall flat that it may require a prescription to keep your eyes focused from all the rolling they are inevitably going to be doing.

The terrible TWISTED METAL video game-like score composed by Benjamin Wallfisch should be called out. It’s shockingly bad considering Wallfisch had a hand in producing such scores as BLADE RUNNER 2049, IT and DUNKIRK. It didn’t feel cinematic whatsoever and took me out of the film anytime I heard its heavy metal power chord.

The overall look of the movie is probably the worst component, however. The special effects are so poorly rendered that you will find it difficult to keep from laughing, even when it wants you to soak up the sadness of a particular situation. There’s one sequence toward the end where a character uses their powers to bring back the spirit of someone who kicked the bucket, and how they illustrate it is sickening. Not to mention the camera movement is all over the place, sometimes even pausing for a quick second in an effort to blend practical and special effects. 

HELLBOY is every bit the worst film this year has offered thus far, and it doesn’t deserve your time or money. While I appreciate one brief moment of real horror during the film’s final act involving more hell creatures, I can’t wait to forget about this irredeemable turd.

Grade: D

HELLBOY opens April 12 in theaters nationwide.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.