Is there something of an Arthurian revival going on at the moment. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched two films that involve the legend of King Arthur. Last week I finally managed to see The Boy Who Would Be King and now we have Hellboy fighting a foe who was almost vanquished by the legendary King. Am I missing something? Not that I’m complaining. It’s a great story. You know I love swordy stories about Knights and Wizards. It just seemed like my life was being dominated by it. Anyway, I should really be reviewing the Joe Cornish film this week as it was the one I watched first but I came back from Hellboy on Saturday night needing to get this out. I have a lot of thoughts. So many thoughts that I don’t think I really talk about the plot much in this review. Basically, the set-up is much the same as 2004 film but this time we’re fighting an evil old witch who wants to release Hell on Earth. She was stopped by Arthur and Merlin years ago but is back. So Hellboy and some new friends, have to stop her. Standard comic book stuff really. But could it possible live up to its predecessor?
I’ll be honest, I knew Hellboy was going to be shit as soon as Ian McShane’s opening voiceover kicked in. It was obvious through that one piece of writing that no effort had gone into making this film anywhere near as original or well-made as the two Guillermo Del Toro were. This opening was laughably bad, which is made even worse by how intentionally funny it thinks it is. It was definitely ultimate cringe so I did the only thing I could do. I stopped giving a shit. As soon as you know a film is going to be terrible then it becomes a whole lot easier to enjoy it more. Not completely, obviously, but more than I would have done. Because I had high expectations of this film. I really enjoyed the previous Hellboy films and was quite excited by the idea of the reboot. Especially when David Harbour was brought in to take over from Ron Perlman. It’s no secret that Hopper is my big Stranger Things love and I genuinely thought he’d bring something brilliant to the role.
Which, I have to say, he does. It’s a different take on the character from Perlman’s. He’s possesses a bit more of a hairy dad bod, is a bit more muted in colour, and isn’t quite as put together. But he’s the same guy we loved before. Harbour has the hard-drinking, gruff everyman kind of demon vibe down and his impressive stature make him a formidable presence on-screen. He feels like a more developed character than this film really deserves and Harbour seems to be acting on a whole other plane to everyone else. Yes, he’s also having fun but he’s bringing something more to the role.
The rest of the cast is just phoning it in. You can see from their faces that nobody is really taking this seriously. It’s like watching Ricky Gervais in Muppets Most Wanted. You just sit and wonder why they bothered to take the job in the first place. Yes, Ian McShane is arguably one of the coolest people ever and can probably do this in his sleep. But he still ends up coming up a bit short. Then there’s Milla Jovovich and her terrible British accent. Playing the villainous Blood Queen Nimue, Jovovich is both bland, underdeveloped, and supremely irritating. She has a permanent smirk on her face as if she’s just counting out the paycheck in her head. It’s a constant parade of disappointing and forgettable performances.
Which is also, possibly, down to the fact that the script is so terribly written and the narrative so bad. It feels like too many ideas have been shoved together to and it just ends up being too busy and confused. Not helped by the terrible editing. We jump from place to place without any thought or planning. It’s an absolute mess. There are some fantastic standalone moments but those are so obviously included just to be cool standalone moments. The best things about this film are the bits that shouldn’t really be there. Like Hellboy hunting giants. Fabulous but adds nothing to plot.
And speaking of hunting giants. What’s with the wanton violence of this film? It’s obvious that someone was hoping for a greater rating so they went for full-on blood-fest but, when it didn’t land, just went for something weirdly in between. Now I’m not squeamish when it comes to a bit of gore but this just seemed over-the-top. And, as is often the case, it makes the CGI blood seems even more fake. By the end, none of the death or destruction really means anything anymore. I mean, I doubt even Zack Snyder could have fucked this comic book movie up anymore than this.
So, in terms of mindless, blood-lusty, violence, Hellboy has it all. You’ll love it if you just want to see a big red guy destroying weird-looking CGI monsters with a lower rating than it wanted. But, if you’re here for developed characters, well-plotted story, putting any thought into editing, or good acting, then it might not be for you. My advice? Go in like I did and just give in. I know this is a shit film but, in the end, it was a bit of fun on a Saturday evening. What else would I have been doing? Probably just watching old episode of MasterChef Australia again, knowing me.