“Hellboy”? More like “HellbOy Vey”! *Insert 90s Sit-Com Laugh Track* I should probably end the review right there because nothing I say can top that. Similarly, nothing I saw in the movie could either.
I’ll be upfront, this movie is not for the casual movie-goer. Its plot is burgeoning with complex fairytale jargon at every moment, and the overall simplicity of the execution of events do nothing to warrant the excessive depth the film tries to hold up. If I explained what happens with the terminology the film uses, I have no doubts in my mind over 90% of readers would not understand what I was saying.
Simply put, Hellboy (David Harbour) is a devil, but he acts like a regular person. He cleans up the messes of other monsters but no one trusts him. There is a demon queen (Milla Jovovich) that is reawakened from the time of King Arthur and its Hellboy’s responsibility to stop her. Trust me, there is a lot more ’fluff’ I took out for your sakes.
The obvious big issue with this film is that it is just too weird. I am not one to underestimate audiences, and I often wished more filmmakers would push the envelope and try to give us something we weren’t expecting. That being said, this just hits too far onto the periphery to truly be appealing. I consider myself fairly nerdy and I was rolling my eyes too often at the myriad of the terminology used that would likely warrant a wedgy if used within 50 feet of a high school. So desperately does this film want to be edgy and cool but so often does it overplay its hand.
This is only exacerbated by the objectively bad special effects. You do not even need to look all that closely to see David Harbour standing in front of a green screen and wildly swinging the prosthetics of his costume at computer-generated abominations that litter the screen. And, so many times the film is trying to look creepy, but ends up looking silly or gross because the effects are of such low quality.
And possibly the most frustrating feature of the film is just how the events transpire. Here is a quick overview: Something violent happens, then David Harbour says something snarky. After, someone British will explain to everyone why that violent moment just happened. And then repeat that process until the credits roll. That is pretty much it. Nothing in the film is ever shown to be important. Instead, we are told after the fact why it was important by the nearest British person. And there is just an unhealthy amount of reactive exposition. It is like we were given a movie of someone reading the story to us. No, not the story itself; a movie about someone reading the story.
If you have a goal to scrape the barrel for a positive to take away, I have unfortunate news. In terms of redeeming qualities, there really is none to be found. The closest this film comes to being good is David Harbour, who over the past few years, has grown into America’s grizzled father-figure who has a heart of gold underneath a rough exterior. And he is okay in the film. It certainly is not his fault the film is as bad as it is. If it wasn’t for his sarcastic deadpan one-liners, I would say this film objectively has nothing going for it. Certainly, this film would be worse off, both critically and financially, if it did not have a name as big as his attached to it.
I wanted to like this film but sadly, that is not what happened. It tried to be silly, creepy, deep, and violent, but I would say that it does not succeed fully at any one of those. In the end, the film forgot the most important thing of all: to be entertaining. I would much rather have spent 2 hours watching a film about Lobster Johnson, the Nazi-wizard-murdering Superhero that appeared for about 20 seconds thirty minutes into the film.
I give “Hellboy” a generous 3.0 out of 10
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim
Runtime: 2 Hours