When they first announced that they were doing a new "Hellboy" movie, I was excited, finally we'll get to see Ron Perlman back as the world saving, smart-ass demon with the huge red right hand. When it was announced that this was to be a reboot, with Stranger Things David Harbour taking over the role, I was immediately less psyched, but said I would likely go see the movie anyway, as a fan of the character first and foremost.
Once we started seeing some trailers I got a little more on-board with this whole thing, as it appeared they were going in a fun, bloody direction with this whole thing, which was different from the original two movies, which were fun, for sure, but decidedly PG-13 affairs. I think the success of the Deadpool franchise led the studio here to go in a different direction, a more R rated take on the world of Hellboy, and that is what leads us to now.
In this take on the character, there is no Abe Sapien or Liz Sherman to keep him grounded, or an introductory character like John Myers to introduce the audience to Hellboy and his world, it's just Hellboy on his own at the start of the film. Sure he works with the BPRD, but it's just him on his own destroying monsters and doing pretty much whatever he wants. And what he does here at the start of the film is go down to Mexico to rescue a fellow agent and friend of his after getting tangled up with some vampire mess.
We don't need any intros here, the movie is a reboot but plays like a sequel, we know who he is, what he does, and we waste little time in getting to see him kick some ass. Which he does here in an awesome fight with a luchadore turned monster as we saw in the previews. There are some words that haunt him in this fight though, "The end is near."
He returns home to the BPRD and his adoptive father Professor Broom (Ian Mcshane-American Gods) who doesn't think anything of the world ending stuff and sends him off on his next assignment, to help some old friends of his take down some giants in England.
What he uncovers there has some apocalyptic implications, and soon enough the Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich) is unleashed on the world, but what she wants more than the world's end is Hellboy at her side.
This movie was a roller coaster of a movie for me, when it started out, I really liked it and was on-board and having fun with it, by the middle I was having decidedly less fun and was kind of bored, even dozed off for a split second, but came back on-board loving it by the end of the film. And as the credits rolled, and I saw the name Neil Marshall attached to the film as the director, I realized what I had just watched, and what was the latest film from the director of Dog Soldiers, my favorite (and only) movie about the Scottish Army vs a group of werewolves.
So the film does have some pacing issues for sure, particularly around the second act of the film, there are just one or two too many trips to other realms for Hellboy to learn more about the plot, but I guess it's a big plot. It feels at times very much like they had a script for a Hellboy video game, and then decided to change gears midway through and make a movie instead. Side quests, like the giant thing, and other bits that don't quite play out that a more streamlined and intended movie would have gone.
But there is a lot of fun to be had here as well. I particularly liked that while a reboot, it didn't treat us like we were just coming into the world of Hellboy for the first time, and it felt like an issue of the comic book at times, with references to other missions and battles that he has fought in the past, such as a whole thing with Baba Yaga (the Russian witch/boogeywoman) that had roots in the comic book itself, which was really cool to me.
I also liked that we got to see the origin of Hellboy done again, with some touches to the movie and original comic but it's slightly different here, and this time they have a WWII era superhero with them, like in the comic book (Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson). It's a different character than in the original comic book but that was still a fun touch and nod to the world that other heroes and things exist here unlike the first movies which were in the old mindset of just these characters are the heroes and weird things that happen in this particular world.
As far as the acting goes, David Harbour does a tremendous job filling the red right hand of Hellboy, he can't match Ron Perlman's energy, but he has his own take on it which is endearing and he's a good choice, if we have to have a reboot, let it be him.
I wasn't as sold on Ian Mcshane as Professor Trevor "Broom" Bruttenholm however. The late, great John Hurt who played the character in the original Del Toro films was just like the character come from the comic book to the screen. This version is Ian Mcshane playing Ian Mcshane, like he does in a lot of his roles I'm starting to notice, a wise and wise-ass who cares about Hellboy as his own son. He was okay and entertaining, but it wasn't the character, he never felt like the character to me.
Milla Jovovich's villain is, I don't want to say inconsequential, but apart from causing a lot of death and cool gory destruction she was the weakest part of the movie for me, which is weird, because she was so good in The Fifth Element, and at least half of the Resident Evil movies.
And one last bad note, the CGI at times feels wonky, which takes you out of the movie, unless you're a staunch grade B-Z horror movie fan and don't care about the quality of effects, in which case, then never mind, enjoy the picture.
But back to the fun stuff, the movie has a lot of very cool action pieces and set pieces, some really awesome gore and violence that any horror fan will absolutely love. Some really fun monster designs too, particularly at the end with the big four "Inhumanoids" looking demons that come up that we see in the previews, to destroy the world. (I feel like they were supposed to be the four horsemen but I could be wrong here). They had some really cool design work.
And the soundtrack is rad as well, from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to Mötley Crüe they have some really awesome music here, surprised there isn't a soundtrack out, which I would be bumping right now if I could. And I was also a fan of the score, Hellboy's theme as it were sounded like it was an homage to Shinedown's "Devil" which if it was intentional was a really nice touch.
Also, be sure to stick around past the credits, there are apparently two post credits sequences, I only stuck around for the first one (amateur of me, I know) that fans of the comics will get a kick out of.
In the end, Hellboy isn't perfect, and it doesn't match the heart or spirit of the original films, but what it is is a whole hell of a lot of fun with a kick-ass soundtrack and sometimes that's all you need.
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