by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 9, 2019

Available digitally today!

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When it was first announced, "Hellboy" was met with a bit of disdain on social media. People were coming out with their pitchforks before the new adaptation of Mark Mignola's comic book series had released any footage. Most of the ire was directed at the production as a whole for being an attempt to capitalize on an intellectual property that already had two great film adaptations under its belt.

Well, it seems like the mob was right for once, as this is just another attempt to capitalize on an intellectual property. Such is the current scheme in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, and so shall it continue, which is odd considering the main thrust of the plot from the new "Hellboy" centers around resurrecting something that shouldn't have been revived in the first place.

To catch everyone up: Hellboy (David Harbour) is a demon from Hell that was summoned by some Nazis at the end of World War II and ended up being raised by Professor Broom (Ian McShane) to protect humanity instead of destroying it. As is more or less usual for comic book films, there's a prophecy about the end of the world that Hellboy is crucial in fulfilling. There's also a blood witch named Nimue (Milla Jovovich) who is brought back from the dead to aid in fulfilling that prophecy. Now the hero from Hell must choose to take his place in bringing about the end times or to fight against them.

What's so odd about "Hellboy" is that it makes it very clear from the get-go that this isn't anywhere close to Guillermo Del Toro's original vision for the character. Charming affectations are removed and replaced with bitterness by way of alcohol addiction and a more caustic attitude. Instead of separating itself from its predecessors, this new version just ends up making Hellboy seem like a hopeless creature with daddy issues. The lack of thorough development seems predicated on the fact that audiences have already spent enough time with this character. If that was the true intention, then why make this in the first place?

That's not to say that "Hellboy" shouldn't separate itself from prior incarnations, but the film has this relentless bloodthirst and preoccupation with dumping exposition before rushing to the next act that it can't help but feel half-assed. What Del Toro did in terms of scope and production design makes Neil Marshall's CGI bloodbath look like fan fiction from an IMDB message board denizen obsessed with the fact that Hellboy doesn't crush faces in with his giant hammer of a hand.

As for Harbour's performance as Hellboy, he does serviceable work despite having to act up against a green screen for most of the time. The onus is on him to make the barrage of plot worthwhile, and he does fine even when the movie cares more about the incidents than the aftermath. Ian McShane also does fine in a role that boils down to a tough conservative father wanting his son to grow a pair. Milla Jovovich at least gets to camp things up as Minue, even when her role is reduced to spouting dumb lines about annihilation and such.

The true oddity about "Hellboy" is that there is a fair amount of practical effects and puppet work when there isn't a giant amount of CGI slathered on top of everything. There's an argument to be had about current visual effects being used in conjunction with something more practical, but this isn't it. And are we back to the point where every action scene needs to be scored to some notable pop or rock song? Again, just another attempt at personality.

Director Neil Marshall is the kind of filmmaker who cut his teeth on lower-budgeted horror films, graduated and failed at something bigger, then found success in directing some of the most beloved episodes of "Game of Thrones." What I found interesting about his initial works, like "The Descent" and "Dog Soldiers," is that he was fascinated with the most primal evocations of fear. As much as he excelled at making creature features, he showcased an understanding of the metaphysical things that keep people awake at night. With "Hellboy," everything is just so unruly that most of the set pieces end up falling flat. There's no time for the audience to sit with whatever is happening on screen because the action takes precedence over the reaction.

Listen, I'm not saying you should be going into your comic book films for emotional resonance. Seeing your favorite characters do cool things can be kind of rad. What I'm trying to get at here is that when you have 120 minutes of rushed exposition, it makes your giant-budgeted project seem like a bunch of scenes haphazardly cut together to serve the lowest common denominator. When you're so jet set on showing a character pummel everything in his path into primordial ooze, you end up being left with something that's bereft of purpose. Wearing relentless violence as a badge of honor just makes you look like an edgelord.

Hellboy - IMAX

At the end of World War II, the Nazis attempt to open a portal to a paranormal dimension in order to defeat the Allies, but are only able to summon a baby demon who is rescued by Allied forces and dubbed ''Hellboy'' (Ron Perlman) . Sixty years later, Hellboy serves as an agent in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, where he, aided by Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a merman with psychic powers, and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a woman with pyrokinesis, protects America against dark forces.


Runtime :: 125 mins
Language :: Silent
Country :: United States


Hellboy :: Ron Perlman
Professor Bruttenholm :: John Hurt
Liz Sherman :: Selma Blair
John Myers :: Rupert Evans
Grigori Rasputin :: Karel Roden
Dr. Tom Manning :: Jeffrey Tambor
Sammael :: Brian Steele
Karl Ruprecht Kroenen :: Ladislav Beran
Young "Broom" :: Kevin Trainor
Agent Lime :: Brian Caspe
Agent Moss :: James Babson
Agent Quarry :: Stephen Fisher
Agent Stone :: Garth Cooper
Sgt. Whitman :: Angus MacInnes


Director :: Guillermo del Toro
Producer :: Lawrence Gordon
Producer :: Lloyd Levin
Associate Producer :: Mike Mignola
Executive Producer :: Patrick Palmer
Writer (Comic Book) :: Mike Mignola
Original Music :: Marco Beltrami
Cinematographer :: Guillermo Navarro
Film Editor :: Peter Amundson
Casting :: Jeremy Zimmerman
Production Designer :: Stephen Scott
Set Decoration :: Hilton Rosemarin
Screenwriter :: Guillermo del Toro

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