Sunday, April 21, 2019

Hellboy '19

So, with a bit of time to ruminate over it, I don't think Hellboy '19 is really a bad movie so much as it's below-average, and it could have really done with being better. It's so hard to separate it from the previous iterations, especially since the people involved with those movies had not exactly moved on.

Indeed, I suspect that I'm not the only person who came into this movie with mixed feelings that made it hard to judge it fairly. On the one hand, it's hard not to resent this one's existence considering that Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman were enthusiastic about making a third film and I do like conclusions (and I'm mildly curious to see if they would have written Selma Blair's MS into the film). On the other, it's kind of great to see Neil Marshall returning to the big screen, and the promise of a Hellboy Cinematic Universe is tempting as heck, even before you see Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson.

I'm guessing that probably doesn't happen now; it's kind of a box-office dud and between the supernatural and the R rating it's not going to be rescued by the Chinese market. That just makes it a bigger bummer that we won't get del Toro's trilogy capper.

Hellboy (2019)

* * (out of four)
Seen 20 April 2019 in AMC Assembly Row #10 (first-run, DCP)

It's kind of a shame that this relaunch of Hellboy didn't light up the box office, not because it's a particularly good movie which deserves success - it isn't - but because the chance of sequels and spin-offs was the best argument for starting fresh rather than having Guillermo del Toro direct another one to complete his trilogy. There's just enough potential here that you could see it getting refined into something better with another bite at the apple, but now it can't help but be seen as anything other than a misguided disappointment.

Hellboy (David Harbour), as you may recall from the previous films or original comics, is a demon summoned by the Nazis during the waning days of World War II, although they did not expect to conjure an infant or have the ritual interrupted by the Allies. Professor Broom (Ian McShane) raises the red-skinned boy as his son, the pair spending their whole lives since investigating and containing otherworldly threats for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Their latest case: Assisting their counterparts in the UK with a trio of resurrected giants, although this leads them to a greater danger: Resurrected 5th-Century witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich), whose attempt to spread a plague that would kill all human was only thwarted by King Arthur (Mark Stanley) and Merlin (Brian Gleeson) themselves.

Her new plan involves Hellboy himself, which isn't the greatest sign; Mike Mignola's BPRD and Hellboy comics tend to be strongest when he's digging into folklore or focusing on the characters' personalities; the stories built around his original mythology, like this one, tend to be the weakest. It's exacerbated by Andrew Cosby's script, which depends greatly on Hellboy's place in the world and relationship with his father, without the film doing much to establish these things, as well as a lot of talk about destiny and sudden shifts of attitude that don't necessarily follow from what the audience sees within the film. The villains want to do bad things, but the only one that actually seems to have any weight to him is pig-headed comic-relief henchman Gruagach (voice of Stephen Graham), seemingly presuming that the audience is bringing that baseline emotional investment in with them, presumably from del Toro's films or the comics.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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