Back in 2004 Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman breathed cinematic life into the comic book anti-hero, and it was awesome. Awesome enough to spawn the 2008 sequel but apparently not awesome enough to round off the trilogy with the planned Dark Worlds sequel. To me, and many others, Ron Perlman WAS Hellboy, and when the first trailer for the Hellboy reboot dropped, I struggled to see Stranger Things wanker cop David Harbour in the role of the demonic saviour.
Neil Marshal, of course, would bring a decidedly different feeling to the reboot, but I couldn’t help thinking that Guillermo del Toro would be just as capable at delivering an R-rated reboot if that’s what the studio wanted.
My expectations were rather low. Low enough that when I got invited to the preview screening, I had to weigh up my options to see if I had anything more interesting to do on that night.
Turns out I didn’t, and I’m glad that I went.
Flying in the face of what pretty much every other film critic on the planet is saying, I’m gonna come straight out and say that I enjoyed the new Hellboy film. It was a shit tonne of dark cheesy fun.
Sure, it was a meandering crock of shit at times, but it was interspersed with enough fun, and some great chemistry from the David Harbour/Sasha Lane/Daniel Dae Kim ménage à trois, that points to massive potential for a sequel.
Marshal’s style seems to be a continuous overuse of the f-bomb and drenching almost everything in blood. The film begins in the Dark Ages, which were called that “for fucking good reason.” And it doesn’t take long for the R-rated visual style to kick in, with dead bodies everywhere, the necessary bird eating eyeballs scene and ending up with Milla Jovovich being skewered to a tree and dismembered, with her still living head and assorted body parts being sealed in multiple strong boxes and sent to be buried in the furthermost reaches of the British Isles.
It’s a great start to the film, and the action keeps up with the convoluted story, which at points makes some unnecessary stops, but when things slow down we get to see Harbour deep dive into Hellboy’s obnoxious side, which as it turns out, he is bloody good at.
At it’s weakest point, Hellboy embraces the comical too much, especially when Jovovich’s Nimue the Blood Queen employs what can only be described as Rocksteady from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to go find all her missing parts so she can rise once again and seduce Hellboy. What, wait, what?
Yes, yes, yes, Marshall doesn’t quite get the balance between blood-soaked terror, and comic book characters quite right, though the trip to go help the giant killers if worth the price of admission on its own.
So basically Marshall’s take on the iconic Hellboy is a whole lot of R-rated fun that sadly lacks the magical touch of del Toro and tries to tell too many stories in one film.
Long live Hellboy and lets hope we get a better-written sequel, or three.
Rating: R16 Restricted to mature audiences 16 years and over. NOTE: Graphic violence & offensive language