12th Apr2019

‘Hellboy’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: David Harbour, Sasha Lane, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Mark Stanley, Brian Gleeson, Penelope Mitchell, Mario de la Rosa, Atanas Srebrev, Dawn Sherrer | Written by Andrew Cosby | Directed by Neil Marshall

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Hellboy, formerly known as Hellboy: The Blood Queen, is directed by Game of Thrones alumni and Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall. It stands as a complete reboot of the franchise after Guillermo del Toro’s cult classic duology that failed to light the box office with disappointing returns. Gone is Ron Perlman as the titular character and replacing the iconic actor is Stranger Things star David Harbour, so at least it has that going for it, right?

This reboot of Hellboy is lifeless and soulless. The acting, from newcomer to the franchise, Sasha Lane is dreadful; meanwhile star David Harbour fails to bring any form of charisma or charm for a character that should be the epitome of sarcasm. The cinematography is horrific, and the screenplay is equally as repulsive, evoking a sense of mid-budget television than a cinematic property. Sadly, this entity is a true stain on what Del Toro and Perlman crafted.

Neil Marshall’s Hellboy here or there treads the exact same thing we have seen before in the del Toro duology, narrative and thematically speaking it has nothing up its sleeve that is distinctive. However, the aspect that stands this out from its predecessors is that it holds an R-rating, meaning more blood and a few four-letter expletives. There is more blood, CGI in fact and there are indeed many four-letter expletives, one in the first thirty seconds, in fact, presumably just in case you forgot. The problem is that neither actually adds anything to the overall film. Not to sound like an innocent priest in all this but the expletive nature is so hollow and meaningless it just falls flat into a crass unintelligible nature, ultimately feeling like it needs to sanction this decision to make it sound cool and be accepted in the saturated market of comic book cinema. The biggest disappointment comes down to the execution of the gore and violence. It’s just so flat and empty. consisting of terribly implemented CGI bloodshed that doesn’t hit the heights of what it intends, and the result is overly exploitative gore that has no reaction from its audience because it doesn’t feel authentic or real.

The CGI, in general, is horrible. You’re treated to one of the most redundant spectacles of our time. There are heavy moments of blue screen exercised throughout this production that is so identifiable and poorly executed it completely distracts from whatever enjoyment this proposes. If anything, Hellboy is trying to shoot for the heights of a big-budget film with half the budget of the movies it is actually competing against, while it is a commendable effort and sometimes such an effort goes a long way, the result here is quite frankly horrifying. The CGI villains and characters look like PlayStation 2 graphics and they have no weight or individualism. Even the main characters are nonessential, with the CGI in no means heightening the film, which begs the questions why it needs to be special effects at all in that case, and much like the hollow expletives and gore, it results in the film constantly taking you out of the experience.

Speaking of taking you out of the experience, it would seem that much of the production achieves such a masterstroke of disconnecting itself from the audience. The cinematography from Lorenzo Senatore is barbaric throughout. It is rudimental and generic framing and composition if you’ll ever see it this year. Any form of distress a dutch angle is utilised, frantic sequences = handheld camera. It’s all just formulaic and unimaginative. A description that suits the film itself. The boldly poor cinematography is highlighted specifically in a disastrous long take in a fight scene that is a shadow of what you’ve seen in Atomic Blonde or Oldboy. It personifies EVERYTHING that is wrong with this film. The CGI is horrendous, with horrible editing from Mark Sanger that just doesn’t work and is the antithesis of smooth and slick, leading to an incredibly visually awkward and irritative sequence that gives you strain and headache above all else. To make matters worse there are two major sequences that employ such badly implemented craft and it’s almost visually verbatim to each other.

This rendition of Hellboy isn’t just frustrating and disappointing but actually quite saddening, and the singular result of such are the performances and the screenplay from writer Andrew Cosby. His first feature film writing credit, and possibly his last with how terribly executed this property is, the writing on offer is so limited in terms of any form of an intelligible character building. No depth or layers are on offer and the character arcs are so flat and uninspiring you’re issued with just four vacant characters, void of charisma or charm to pull you into an emotional response to the events that unfold. Even on an entertainment level, it fails to propose any forms of invigorating humour, especially in terms of bringing David Harbour’s rendition of the titular character to life. We’ve seen Harbour before, notably in Stranger Things in which his charm and charisma is his most foremost leading attribute and here he’s constantly on the backfoot of trying to get the audience on his side both contextually, due to scripting, and also the resulting fallout of the Hellboy fanbase. As for Sasha Lane… I can not believe is the same actress I’ve seen in Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. The difference here is light years apart. How she handles the screenplay is quite frankly horrendous. There is zero aptitudes or intrigue, how Lane incorporates her character in screen presence and definition is flat at every single turn and her delivery of dialogue will melt your brain to mush before this stinker is over and don’t get me started on how disastrous her powers are implemented into this lacklustre narrative.

The quicker this entity is forgotten the better for all of us. It’s just made sadder that the much anticipated and by all accounts intended third entry in del Toro’s Hellboy trilogy was taken away and replaced with this in a full speed conviction and the end result is a tragic cataclysm of a disaster.

Hellboy is in UK cinemas now.

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