The “Hellboy” reboot is bloody but soulless
As the director of “The Descent” and “Dog Soldiers,” Neil Marshall is no stranger to tackling macabre and unearthly stories. While the “Hellboy” universe seemed like the perfect playground for him, the film is lifeless and falls flat despite the gratuitous amount of blood and gore and David Harbour’s solid performance as the titular character.
The reboot introduces us to Nimue The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) who was trapped for centuries and exiled, only to rise again and build an army of monsters roaming the earth. She threatens to bring on the apocalypse to seek her revenge, and Hellboy (Harbour), and his team are tasked to put an end to it.
The film is certainly less atmospheric and more up front than Guillermo Del Toro’s 2004 version. There is neither a reverence to the mythology of the Hellboy character nor a convincing portrayal of the film's own pulpy sensibilities. There’s also a lack of patience and a feeling of tonal imbalance, with a repeated influx of jokes, blood and swearing. While that may appeal to some, it quickly feels forced, over-the-top and out of place. It seemed like the filmmakers were more concerned with kickstarting a franchise and having it appeal to as many audiences as possible rather than serving the film’s characters.
Harbour successfully plays Hellboy as a rebellious, troubled individual trying to find his place in the world. He wrestles with himself about what it means to be a face of evil doing good. He, along with cast members Sasha Lane and Ian McShane, try their best in grounding the film, and it helps that the CGI creature designs are creepy and well-made. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch is interesting enough, blending metal rock with a modern composition. Some of the production design and technical make-up are impressive as well.
Marshall directs this film in a surprisingly hackneyed way, unlike his previous work in “The Descent” or the popular “Blackwater” episode in “Game of Thrones.” The film seemed more like a network television pilot than a full fledged film at times, and the scenes have no sense of pacing or comedic timing. Hellboy also suffers from obnoxious needle-drops and jarring editing, taking away from a lot of the action on screen.
With Hellboy, there is potential to tackle unique and otherworldly stories involving the occult, while grounding it with strong, interesting characters. With two installments already made about the character, it is disappointing to see producers and filmmakers bet on painfully humdrum stakes of a villain threatening to end the entire world, and then accomplishing it with a lack of finesse akin to Suicide Squad and The Mummy. It’s even more confounding that the previous installments, helmed by an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, weren’t able to complete their trilogy.
“Hellboy” will be released nationwide Friday, April 12.
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