Hot off the success of Netflix’s Stranger Things, David Harbour dons the horns in this Hellboy reboot, taking on Milla Jovovich as Nimue the Blood Queen. Unfortunately, this whole thing is a desperate misfire, writes Steve Newall.
It’s damn near impossible to set aside Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 and 2008 Hellboy films when watching this reboot. If one somehow could, this new effort would likely be considered an utter stinker anyway. A mess of studio attempt at teenage-friendly ‘tude, constantly disappointing CGI, leaden performances and generally unenthusing action adds up to the sort of desperate misfire writers reach for in order to give context to the next one churned out of the sausage factory (yes, this could be the new Van Helsing).
Perhaps the movie’s come out of some time portal. Either that or makeup and prosthetic technology must have gone backwards in the past decade, since David Harbour’s face doesn’t work properly as Hellboy. Further adding to how incredibly dated this all seems, not only does Milla Jovovich play the villain, but has a henchman straight out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And, for the second film in the space of a week, an attempt is made to energise an action scene late in the movie by blaring Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart (to be fair, my favourite up-tempo number about a heroin overdose).
Director Neil Marshall has turned in some pretty good work in the past, most notably The Descent and some above-average episodes of Game of Thrones, which on paper seem a great fit for Hellboy. As you can conclude from the preceding paragraphs, that is sadly not the case, Marshall’s grasp on an all-over-the-place muddled rush of nonsensical narrative eluding him, and his normally good eye for set pieces absent in sequences veering from confused to boring to video game cut-scene or all of the above. He does, however, display a knack for cruel violence exacted on innocent civilians, which at least offers some grim semblance of stakes as apocalyptic events come into view.
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What del Toro pulled off visually on his relatively small budgets was astonishing, and if there’s one good thing about this film, it’s that it confirms this. He also gave Hellboy a heart that is completely MIA here. From the opening moments, 2019’s Hellboy makes it clear that this is not trying to be the same kind of film, and the disappointment only grows from there. So why they’d ever retell the character’s occult origin and create a direct comparison to del Toro is completely beyond me—perhaps they needed this to get to a designated quota of flashbacks, littered throughout the film in some of the laziest storytelling you’ll see for some time. At least until the next shit sausage comes out of the factory.