“… then the Devil Jumped Up On A Hickory Stump And Said Boy Lemme Tell You What.”
The first Hellboy film in two thousand four was something of a diamond in the rough. During the early two thousands, all sources of media were trying to acquire more clout and, more to the point, more PG-13 money from parents of teenagers who were in the gaming or nerd culture. It was not unique from the other properties that were coming out around that time. However, with the unique set and artistic direction of Guillermo del Toro and the always charismatic acting of Ron Perlman, the film was able to garner in enough success and ticket sales to green light a sequel, Hellboy: The Golden Army. The two thousand eight sequel is fondly looked upon by the fan base and the next film was widely anticipated, but given that we haven’t had a Hellboy film until twenty nineteen is evidence enough of the development hell that consumed this film.
The big question is, as with any film, is this film any good? Yes. Is it better than the past two films with Ron Perlman? Yes and no. David Harbour is a fantastic actor and he is great in the role of Hellboy. He captures the same witty, devil-may-care attitude, even the childish snark, but also the vulnerability of the want for acceptance since this version of Hellboy is, from I assume, a younger man. David tries to emulate Ron Perlman’s style and I believe he does it fairly well.
The no in my answer comes into play when we get to certain what could viewed as nitpicks, but it wouldn’t be a critique without them. If Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense are trying to remain underground, then for what reason is he allowed to walk around in public. That was a big point of contention in the previous movies; Hellboy’s need for acceptance by the public clashing with the BPRD’s sense of secrecy. This made the protagonist his own worst enemy. The present Hellboy, on several occasions, is walking through the streets or very populated areas with little or no disguise to his identity. While we were on looks, let us step into a positive point.
The designs of the creatures is still from a place of passion and love. Hellboy, while slightly altered, is as recognizable as he was eleven years ago. Baba Yaga was a particularly disgusting and disturbingly looking design and was the one antagonist that unnerved me. The other thing that unnerved me was the gore in this movie. The jump from PG-13 to R rating is noticeable from the very first frame.
The multiple ways that a human being can be maimed, dismembered, eviscerated, and overall killed is telling of how much effort went into that particular aspect. Now I am not against gore in movies, and this is not a slight against this movie at all. The gore did enhance the threat of the paranormal creatures that threaten humanity. It did its job in invoking a guttural response for a long time movie watcher such as myself. While the gore gained my immediate attention, as did the cracks with the side characters.
Ian McShane as Professor Broom was well acted and did give off the vibe of an over protective but loving father, however, John Hurt as Broom gave a more likable version that was deserving of his son’s adoration. He was soft-spoken, carried himself with intellect and poise. Ian McShane’s version came off as a father that is trying so hard to train his son for the challenges he faces, but fails to show Hellboy proper affection until the final moments of the film. This is more of personal taste and again is not a slight against the film. My complaint lies with Alice and Major Ben.
Alice is someone who Hellboy saved from some fairies when she was an infant. She has an interesting back story that connects her to the protagonist, and while she is a fun character, I feel that she is merely a story device that moves the protagonist from location to location. She also possesses a BS soul punch power that is revealed in the end of act two. I also like Major Ben, as he acts as a serious foil to Hellboy’s snark, but he also possesses abilities that are hinted at but only introduced at the film’s climax. This is also a hint at my biggest issue with the entirety of the film, it feels familiar yet distant.
Whenever a reboot, and yes this is a reboot, brands itself with a similar title to the original, it prevents an uninitiated audience from understanding that there was any other film prior to the current version. This is the first of a new series of films, but I feel that the film is looking to attract old fans minus proper setup for any new viewers. It tries to fit in an origin story, a setup to this world, end of the world stakes (in which I don’t know how they will raise the stakes in the sequel higher than what they were in this film), and tries to have a satisfying character arc for the protagonist. Yes, I can admit that the original film’s ending felt not as climactic as it was built up to be throughout the story. Yet, it was simple and effective at the job of introductions for the audience.
Was this film deserving of my time and money, yes, but that is a very subjective question. There is enjoyment to be had with this film, and I am not against a sequel. I just feel that this property was used to gain interest since the Marvel and DC movies have taken off in the past ten or so years. I am glad that Hellboy has returned and wish it the best, but amongst all of the numbers of heroes out there I am unsure how much it will stand out to the main stream crowd who know nothing of the character of Hellboy.