Monday, April 22, 2019

Movie Review: "Hellboy" (2019)

Director: Neil Marshall
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours

Hellboy, a demon that has been raised on earth, is sent on a mission to prevent some old enemies from summoning an ancient witch known as The Blood Queen, who will release a plague upon the land that will destroy humans and let creatures of the dark reign supreme.

Hellboy 2019 movie still David Harbour
"Your heart beats with rage. I know which side you'll choose at the end." (Image Source)
Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro has been trying to get his final entry into his "Hellboy" series made for years. We love what he did with "Hellboy" (2004) and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008), and we love Ron Perlman as "Red," so we were a little skeptical about the decision to reboot the series entirely. Our hopes were raised a bit when it was announced that David Harbour, who we like very much as an actor, would be taking over the titular role, especially when we saw him in full makeup in the trailer. Tapped to direct this hard R-rated, more-horror-centric reboot of the character we love so much was Neil Marshall, who helmed the fantastic "The Descent" (2005). The only real wild card was writer Andrew Cosby, who up until writing this screenplay had only written teleplays, most notably for the show "Eureka." What could possibly go wrong with so much in its favor? This story begins with the legend of King Arthur and tells of the time he killed The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) with Excalibur, dicing her up and sending each piece of her body to the far corners of his kingdom. Now, in modern times, a couple of Hellboy's old enemies, Gruagach (Stephen Graham) and Baba Yaga (Troy James/Emma Tate), are trying to find all the pieces of The Blood Queen so they can reassemble her to exact revenge on him. After they "put Humpty Dumpty back together again," The Blood Queen hopes to unleash a plague on mankind and kill all humans so creatures of the night can flourish once again. Hellboy must try to stop The Blood Queen, but what he may not know is that he is the key to her entire scheme. 
Hellboy 2019 movie still David Harbour Ian McShane
"That's the thing about sand. You can always draw another line." (Image Source)
We had a lot of hope for this new incarnation of "Hellboy" (2019), and we really wish we could say we loved this spin on the character. Unfortunately, we can't, because this movie, and its overall story, are an absolute mess. There is far too much going on, there is no clear narrative thread, it is full of contrived moments, and eye-rolling dialogue, and terrible accents, and excessive amounts of editing, and bad CGI. It almost entirely relies on the audience being familiar with Hellboy, his universe, and the characters within it. The script dives into the narrative immediately assuming you're well-versed in exactly what's going on. People without prior knowledge of the character/s may be lost about who people are and why they are important despite exposition dump after exposition dump (almost all of which come from Ian McShane's character Professor Broom). We don't know if this is entirely the fault of writer Andrew Cosby, or if his story was chopped to bits in production. Either way, what winds up on the screen is pretty much a disaster.

Beyond the writing, the film lacks nuance and magnetism. David Harbour does a decent enough job as Hellboy, but he lacks the same charisma Ron Perlman had. The script is nowhere near as quippy and tongue-in-cheek as it thinks it is, and as a result, most of the humor falls awkwardly and jarringly flat. Add this to a cacophony of loud, clamorous noises, a bajillion f-bombs (just in case you forgot this was a hardcore, R-rated affair), unrelenting digital effects where bodies are pulled part all over the place (just in case you forgot this was a hardcore, R-rated affair), and so. much. screeching. rock. music., and you've got a recipe for eyeball-and-earhole-bleeding chaos. We wish that the people behind the scenes had used the R-rating to the film's advantage, not just because they felt like they had to include endless amounts of blood and gore even when it did fit with the story. Sure, there is an occasional adequate action scene where it felt necessary to implement guts spilling out into the street, and some of the visuals are creative, but it's almost always an overbearing, try-hard mess. 
Hellboy 2019 movie still Milla Jovovich
"Don't talk shit about destiny. She's a vindictive bitch." (Image Source)
Despite its calamity, "Hellboy" (2019) feels totally lifeless and devoid of charm. This is the perfect example of how not to make an R-rated movie. Marshall and co. should have taken notes from R-rated comic book films that have done it right like "Deadpool" (2016) and "Logan" (2017). In these flicks, the violence and language and nudity were all used in support of the narrative. Here, it feels like the other way around, like it simply wanted to be edgy to an extravagant degree. Though it has fleeting moments of entertainment, and though it is not the worst movie we've seen in 2019, we left "Hellboy" (2019) extremely disappointed with what we had seen.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.4/10
RT Rating: ~14%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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