Oh boy, Hellboy returns bringing fire and fury with him. Repulsing critics, debuting with a 9% score on popular film site Rotten Tomatoes, this reboot to Guillermo Del Toro's 2004 gothic hit has a lot to be desired. Now here's the thing - 1) I hate Rotten Tomatoes, admittedly it gives a rough indication of whether a film is good or not but most people seem to completely misunderstand how it works, thoughtlessly feeding into its toxicity. 2) Hellboy is bad, very bad, but nowhere near as bad as people are saying. There is an infinite number of things to poke holes in, but when all boils down, Hellboy is one of the most bombastic and hilarious cinema experiences of my entire life.
Though a child with a stick of chalk could probably tell a better story than this, the plot follows as so: defeated by King Arthur and buried for centuries, the ruthless Blood Queen returns to annihilate the modern world. Which means it's up to Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence to stop her. Dragged through hell and back, Hellboy is one crazy damnation. The supernatural investigator returns in an off-the-wall, over-the-top reboot with none of the gothic fantasy and eccentricity of Del Toro's original. Lionsgate try to establish their own franchise with absolutely zero consideration for fans of the source material, but this is as bottom barrel as they come in terms of storytelling and screenplay. With corny dialog that provokes a bigger headache than a pair of hefty horns - Hellboy is an incredibly rare feat. For all the crummy qualities the film demonstrates, Neil Marshall produces an unapologetically bonkers and gruesome adventure that is a hell of a time at the multiplex.
First off the bat comes the rumble fist demon Hellboy. Stranger Things David Harbour finally works his way to the big screen in his debut leading role; genuinely brilliant as the grumpy wise crack, Harbour boasts oodles of charisma. Loud and snarky, Hellboy is an engaging presence amongst cookie cutter side characters. Sasha Lane is given an interesting power set, punching souls out of witches, but you simply can't get past her dreadful British accent, and the same can be said for Daniel Dae Kim.
Hellboy contains some exceptional prosthetic work. Harbour is transformed into Hellboy himself, coated in red flesh with sawn off horns, the make-up-department have worked wonders. Along with this, Marshall convincingly fuses supernatural elements into the real world. Hellboy begins with a Mexican vampire wrestling match and it doesn't let up from there, going on to visit Baba Yaga, a child munching witch from Slavic folklore. There are fantastic nightmarish elements; despite all its faults, Marshall certainly puts the "Hell" in "Hellboy".
Then enters Mila Jovovich as Blood Queen Nimue (or we start with just her served head). Combining Suicide Squad's Enchantress with Thor: Ragnarok's Hela - or an more watered down version - Jovovich basically acts as one giant plot device that brings forth the apocalypse. However, don't get excited when I say that, because in Hellboy's terms it means deriving from every third act climax of every superhero movie from the past ten years, with the typical "world cleansing" motive. Nimue isn't a character, she is one branch of a cluttered mind map that is being presented in the pitching room. But hey, at least this finale has giant face ripping hell monsters roaming the streets of London.
In no way does Hellboy deserve to be as enjoyable as it is. However, due to Harbour's magnificent turn as the uncanny de-horned hero, Marshall's latest work isn't a completely lost cause. Offering some of the most ridiculous and repulsive on screen deaths I've ever seen, along with an odd tone that sometimes works when it attempts to be playful - Hellboy is utterly - unfeasibly - ridiculous.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.