Hellboy stars David Harbour as Hellboy, Ian McShane as Trevor Bruttenholm, Milla Jovovich as Nimue, Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan, Penelope Mitchell as Ganeida and Daniel Dae Kim as Ben Daimio.
The movie is directed by Neil Marshall and is in cinemas worldwide now.
Hellboy is back, and he’s on fire. From the pages of Mike Mignola’s seminal work, this action packed story sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, “Stranger Things”) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil series), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.
So here is a film which is going to split the audience, potentially right down the centre. On the one side a cult level audience of B Movie lovers and possible Hellboy diehards may find enough to enjoy about Neil Marshall’s reboot to keep its memory alive for years to come.
On the other side there will be those critical voices, the ones who enjoy only the purist form of the character but also those who fail to see past the various cracks that run throughout this movie.
Until seeing this movie I very much fell on the side of enthusiasm. I thought the trailers looked interesting: plenty of humour; some high stakes action, the CGI was passable but admittedly not tentpole quality but I felt that on the whole there was a lot to appreciate.
Upon hearing the $50M price tag it put the idea of the lower quality CGI in to perspective for me and also brought up a common place argument with friends: with a lower budget do you reduce the need for CGI in your script? Or do you shoot for the stars and do the best you can?
Hellboy very much aims to do the best it can whilst shooting for the stars. The movie features a tonne of practical effects which are excellent. The creature makeup is of an incredibly high standard. Harbour looks great as Hellboy, not looking too much like Perlman but also not too dissimilar to loose the character.
Baba Yaga looks outstanding. Played visually by Troy James (recently seen as Rag Doll on The Flash) and voiced by Emma Tate. She represented in suitably creepy fashion and kudos for the fact she is almost entirely practical. It adds a layer to extra horror to proceedings that visual effects can sometimes ruin.
Fully CGI creatures like Camazotz also look great in isolated moments. But when the action goes large scale with multiple monsters attacking the streets of London it tends to loose its authenticity.
What I’m trying to say is points for effort but perhaps lowering the scale might have made the movie overall a more successful entity.
The story of Hellboy is where I find my biggest issues. There is loosely – and I mean very loosely – a narrative which runs throughout the movie. It’s the story of Nimue The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) and something to do with why she was sliced up by King Arthur and put back together in the present day.
Therein lies the problem. All of the characters in Hellboy seem to have found their motivation before the movie starts. Imagine walking in part way through a movie and not being able to catch up on why the characters are doing what they are doing. That is Hellboy.
There isn’t a single character in the main plot who is given the time to explore their motivations yet there are plenty of flashbacks. We get to see how Nimue was sliced up, when Hellboy was first conjured and even how Ben Daimio was scratched and became a monster in his own right.
Instead of giving context to almost all the scenes in the movie instead what we get is two hours of individual scenes with very little connective tissue. This flashback leads to this person travelling to this location which triggers a flashback to this moment in history. It’s all very wooly.
Some scenes in isolation are enjoyable: the flashback to the night Hellboy arrived on Earth features from great costume design and feels very true to his comic origin. Equally enjoyable is the sequence in the Osiris Club with Lady Hatton (pre-giants), this scene shows there’s a movie inside this mess which is trying to break out.
The action sequences are also, on the whole, up to scratch aside from CGI blood spatter. I wonder if there was no blood used on set in case the studio pushed for a lower rating and when it was decided to go adult they added it in digitally. Either way it can often be a little distracting.
The same goes for almost the entire of act three back in London. Though some shots feature an impressive scale the movie wraps up all too fast leaving Hellboy, Alice and Ben to celebrate whilst London burns down around them.
It’s moments like this where the movie becomes all too abrupt. Much like the cold opening set in Arthurian times and essentially every other subplot in the movie.
It’s hard to understand what the logic was behind either the pacing choices or the timeline of the script. Neither seems to be aware of what the final outcome will be so it culminates in a lack of anything substantial.
The casting is thankfully much more solid. David Harbour is a solid choice to play Hellboy, he has some good chemistry with Ian McShane who is also well cast as Professor Broom. Hats off to Daniel Day Kim for managing to do a lot with very little as Ben Daimio also.
In terms of the main cast the two weak links for me are Milla Jovovich and Sasha Lane. For some reason Lane is relegated to just saying “f**k” at the start of every sentence as if that is something us Brits regularly do.
Jovovich is also given very little to do as she is often either dismembered or being dismembered/put back together. There’s very little time for her to use her strong physicality to bring any sense of strength or substance to Nimue. There was plenty more which could have been done with her character if they had only thought to include her in more of the movie.
Though not entirely unwatchable Hellboy suffers from some heavy pacing issues and an inconsistent story. David Harbour is well cast in the lead role with many strong supporting players but overall they are unable to lift writer Andrew Cosby’s script out obscurity.
You can find all our Hellboy coverage of the movie over at our movie hub.