Hellboy Review: Harbour and Marshall prove that Hellboy is in the right hands
Director Neil Marshall and Stranger Things’ David Harbour have come together bring the lengendary, foul-mouthed paranormal hunter, Hellboy, back to the big screen for an R-rated reboot full of blood-filled carnage, creepy creature design, and a performance from Harbour that’s one hell of a good time.
The film follows Hellboy (Harbour), a paranormal detective that was summoned from Hell during WWII and taken in by the leader of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.R.P.D), Professor Broom (Ian McShane). While Broom has tried to shape Hellboy into being a force for humanity, there’s an evil inside Hellboy that’s could unleash a force that ends the world. Now that Nimue (Milla Jovovich), the Blood Queen, seeks to make her vengeful return to wreak havoc on Earth, Hellboy must find a balance between his human upbringing and inner demons to stop the evil queen from unleashing Hell on Earth.
The thing I appreciate most about this reboot is how much it utilizes its R-rating to create the gory carnage and hellish creatures fans would expect to see. Admittedly, the blood can have the glossy CGI sheen to it that’s noticeable and kind of distracting, but I couldn’t help but be enamored by the great creature designs Marshall has put into the film. Seeing Hellboy fending off and slicing up giants and fight the pig-headed Gruagach (Stephan Graham) was joyous sight to see and made the action sequences feel large in scale.
Marshall doesn’t forget his horror roots, though, as he even uses practical effects to create some horrifying imagery and moments that are chill inducing. The imagery of Nimue being put back together as the close-ups of her being sewn back together is haunting. Not to mention, up and coming creature performer Troy James puts in a stellar performance as Baba Yaga as his twisting and bone-cracking movements had me white-knuckling. The practical looks of Hellboy, himself is great to see and Harbour is unrecognizable under all the make-up and it shows how dedicated he is to the role.
However, Harbour doesn’t only capture the looks of Hellboy as his performance brings the tough, funny, and charming personality of the iconic character to the forefront of the film. Harbour’s portrayal embodies a rebellious spirit, readiness to take down anything that stands before him, and desire to understand creates a younger and more youthful Hellboy than what we have seen in the past. With each line, Harbour only drew me in more and more and his relationships with other characters like Broom and Alice (Sasha Lane) showcase his more personable side. I also really appreciated how Hellboy’s presence is felt by everyone already knowing him and having connections to him as reflects the kind of world-building the film achieves.
Now, while I actually don’t think the film’s story is half-bad, I will say that it’s definitely the weakest part of the film. The film tries to implore this idea of Hellboy being stuck between two worlds and that fate controls his destiny, but it’s only touched on at the surface level, so I didn’t really buy into it. There’s this idea that Hellboy might turn to side with the queen and kick off an apocalyptic, hellish uprising, but it’s tough to believe because of how constantly defies those that want him to turn. Even his ties to the B.P.R.D and his human upbringing are too strong and, even though he has a blow-up with Broom, it was only strong enough to strain his ties rather than severe them.
Even Nimue’s presence is weak and, while I really enjoyed how the film sets up her past and the destruction she brings, she doesn’t get the screen-time or story moments that make her memorable. Honestly, Gruagach has a stronger presence and his motivation and connection to Hellboy is more fun and engaging than Nimue’s. The film also felt as if it must reiterate itself by repeating story points or showcasing unnecessary narrations and flashbacks. There’s an opening narration that reflects a connection to King Arthur and Hellboy that feels as if it’s retold a bunch of times throughout the film and some of the flashbacks it has are a little unnecessary. I can kind of understand why this decision might have been made as the film has to cover a lot of ground, but it’s pretty easy to understand the first time and next time around, hopefully, the film can trust its audience a little more.
Hopefully, next time around, there will also be more fitting music choices and score because what’s present in Hellboy doesn’t work. Often times, the songs and score are distracting because they don’t really fit with what’s happening. I honestly wanted to start counting how many heavy metal guitar riffs the score was made of as they occur quite often and instead of creating this “bad-ass” mentality the film thinks that it has, it created a more of a laughing confusing atmosphere.
Regardless, even with its issues Marshall and Harbour show that they are more than worthy of carrying the Hellboy mantle and bring fans the R-rated Hellboy fun that they would want to see. There’re even some excellent post-credit scenes that show that might be more in store for Hellboy in the future. Honestly, with what’s shown with this violent, gory, and fun reboot, my fingers are crossed that we’ll get the chance to see more soon.