Movie Review : Hellboy (2019)
* this review contains spoilers *
I don’t think Hellboy is a very interesting character. Not if you aren’t into demons, hardboiled superheroes and other things that are weirdly specific to hardcore comic books enthusiasts. He’s a niche character operating in the most mainstream market I can think of: superhero movies. In a way, Dark Horse Comics’ run at conquering Hollywood was doomed before it started because Hellboy is not suited for dad-bros who swear to you they read all of the Avengers original run before they were twelve. If he had any success whatsoever, it’s because he existed in a pre-MCU world.
But it could’ve been worse. Someone could’ve tried to reboot the character two weeks after the release of the biggest superhero movie of all-time with a gimmicky, paper-thin script. Oh wait, it’s exactly what happened. Hellboy is NOT a successful movie. It is even less so than its predecessors.
In this new Hellboy movie, our sympathetic depressed demon (now played by the equallly sympathetic and depressed David Harbour) and the BRPD are contracted by an ancient British order called the Osiris Club to hunt down three giants. The club ends up trying to murder him instead. But while defending himself and kicking the giant’s asses simultaneously, Hellboy learns through a vision that Vivienne Nimue’s (Milla Jovovich) body is being reassembled after being dismembered and buried by King Arthur (Mark Stanley) himself hundreds of years ago.
Somehow this is not good new, because she’s…. she’s… quite powerful?
I was predisposed to dislike Hellboy. Because I don’t like Guillermo Del Toro to begin with and thought the earlier movies felt derivative of anything ranging from Batman to Lord of the Rings, by the way of Tim Burton films (typical Del Toro influences). But that new film does nothing to sway me in. It is by far the worst in the franchise. I was hoping a new director could breathe new life into the series, but a terrible screenplay will go a long way to tank your efforts. Let me go through my laundry list of complaints in order to save you two long, uncomfortable hours.
Hellboy borrows a lot from Arthurian legends and the myth of countess Erzebeth Bathory. She’s a 16th century serial killer who bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth. Antagonist Vivienne Nimue is inspired by her and is nicknamed The Blood Queen, but since she spends 90% of the movie being dismembered having her limbs retrieved by her minions, who have to actually know who Erzebeth Bathory is in order to fear Vivienne Nimue. She does jack shit to justify her antagonist status. She fights King Arthur in the opening scene, but gets her ass thoroughly kicked.
I’m not going to go into a “this movie is about fearing powerful women” tirade, but if you ever read one on the internet…. well, know that Hellboy brought it on itself.
The Arthurian legend integration to Hellboy’s plot is bullshit, too. Here’s the spoiler I was warning your about on top of the review: Hellboy is the heir to King Arthur. I know. This is corny, nonsensical and not at all pertinent to a battle between two fucking demons. It’s not even a "oh shit, Hellboy is half demon, half religious man” revelation. It’s more in a “it’s your job to kill her, now” kind of way. What makes Hellboy any interesting is that it’s not clear what he is. A demon? A superhero? Both? Clarifying it kills any tension within the character.
Hellboy’s main sin is to be built around a stereotype (the outsider turning out to be special), rather than an actual good story. It’s lazy, opportunistic and despite that the character had a built-in fanbase, audiences didn’t bite and the movie didn’t turn a profit. Color me surprised. The screenplay has no tension, borrows credibility from other narratives and quite frankly, the movie never seems to know what to do with itself. I’ve never had the privilege to read Mike Mignola’s comics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor man facepalmed a hundred times watching this joke of a movie.