Hellboy review David Harbour Daniel Dae Kim Sasha Lane

Year: 2019
Director(s): Neil Marshall
Writer(s): Andrew Cosby
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: R
Digital, Color, 121 mins

Synopsis: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge. (Source)

Cross media adaptions are a tricky thing. What works on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen, or vice versa. When Guillermo del Toro first introduced Hellboy to megaplexes, he took smart, respectful liberties with Mike Mignola’s beloved source material. The results made for a deeper dive into Hellboy’s strange world, accentuating the poignant idea of a demon torn between human longing and inevitable fate. Del Toro’s two films where unabashedly fun, ghoulish creature features and a far cry from the safer age of modern Marvel heroics. Like Hellboy himself, these films were also black sheep underdogs. They smashed to their own beat and didn’t caring about anything else. While this latest iteration is an understandable attempt at prolonging the legacy, Neil Marshall and co. just can’t offer anything new. This is a pale comparison of what’s come before, and despite all the creature feature insanity, feels uninspired.

Hellboy (David Harbour) finds the titular character thriving within his own right, a paranormal investigator traveling the world to rid it of some unsavory supernatural forces. When the story kicks up, he’s been summoned to England. There, he’s set to help a super secret society hunt down three giants who’ve been wrecking havoc in their midst. A few otherworldly conspiracies later, Hellboy, now partnered with a medium named Alice (Sasha Lane) and an agent named Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) find themselves in the apocalyptic thick of it. A mysterious beast has been collecting the separated body parts of an ancient sorceress named the Blood Queen. If Hellboy and crew can’t stop her from being restored, she’ll be the end of all they know. 

No doubt, the entire purpose of this film is to reintroduce Hellboy to the world. To forge their own path, Marshall and crew decided to go hard R in the hopes of earning gorehouds and offbeat comic fans over. Though there are a few moments of bloody abandon, this is mostly a mixed bag that never finds its footing. At its best, the film feels like the disjointed highlight reel of a modest cable tv series. Most scenes work on their own, thanks to the cast and their chemistry, and a few comedic beats and action set pieces are even fun. As a whole, however, none of it really adds up. The story is incomprehensible at most, tone deaf and listless. The script tires so hard to jam as many nods to Mignola’s comics as it can, but the film’s episodic nature is flat and fractured. Without a clear through line, the profound struggle at the core of Hellboy’s character never comes through. Even the film’s attempt at horror is missing the atmosphere or grit that it needs to really kick. 

Hellboy review Milla Jovovich

Performances aren’t the problem here, and the cast is one of the film’s only saving graces. As Hellboy himself, David Harbour gives big red the irreverent devil-may-care attitude that he needs, able to dissect an inherent, tortured humanity. The script never gives Harbour much to flex on, but he offers as much of an anchor as he can. The straight-faced comedic timing works, and his physicality sells things well. Sasha Lane’s Alice Monaghan is also an inspired addition. As a character who has a unique bond to Hellboy, Lane proves that she can be a star with the right material. She makes Alice someone we want to hang out with, taking everything as it comes with a sense of wit. Daniel Dae Kim gets the short stick here. Kim can definitely handle his own despite a script that relegates him toward generic tough guy antics. As the Blood Queen, Nimue, Milla Jovovich is mostly given a few glares and a surface backstory. Her screen time isn’t enough to leave a mark, and her character design is honestly pretty flat (not her fault obviously).

It’s actually a pretty huge bummer that Hellboy is a bust. Del Toro made me fall in love with the character, and I immediately sought out all of Mignola’s work because of it. If this latest film can replicate that for new fans, than more power to them. For those of us who wanted to see how del Toro would cap off his trilogy, this is a painful, regrettable mess.