You'll wish there's a special hell for this lacklustre movie.
Based on Mike Mignola's seminal work, Hellboy, the movie is adapted from three story arcs of the comic book series—Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury (and a little from Hellboy in Mexico). Hellboy (played by David Harbour) is a demon summoned by the Nazis during World War II. But the Nazis' plot for world domination were thwarted when Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) rescued and raised him.
Now as an agent for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), Hellboy, is tasked to aid the Osiris Club, stop Nimue (Milla Jovovich) and cut a deal with Baba Yaga (Troy James).
Here be spoilers…
What we like
There is a sense of unbridled fun. There's plenty of blood and action, which is a pretty cherry that sits on top of a turd cake… but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
There might be scepticism with David Harbour’s portrayal of Hellboy. Ron Perlman’s take on Big Red is considered sacrosanct but Harbour adds a new dimension to it. Now Hellboy is more emotive (probably due to the prosthetics), more angsty.
Baba Yaga is a delight and McShane as Bruttenholm is a departure from John Hurt's role in the 2004 version but we can dig the tough-love parenting style.
No one really gives Milla Jovovich the credit that she deserves but even with the material given for Hellboy, Jovovich gives her damndest. The moment Nimue's cry is caught in her throat at the appearance of Hellboy (if you forgive the paraphrasing of Dragon Ball Z) in his final form, you start to understand the depth of her motivation in seeing her kind come out from the darkness.
What we didn't like
Okay. The turd cake. Let's get to it:
The editing is crap. Certain scenes are smashed into one another that the flow is interrupted, or worse, a distraction. I’m unable to corroborate this but the censor’s scissors might have taken to the film’s scenes of gore. There was a scene between Hellboy and Baba Yaga that had the appearance of dead children (Baba Yaga gotta eat!) but that was blurred out; we don't see the spear pierce through Hellboy during the Wild Hunt; a man's body wasn't torn in twain by demons… so much for the R-rating that Neil Marshall, the director, was going for.
Hellboy is also an exposition dump. The film opens with McShane talking about Merlin and King Arthur quartering Nimue and sending her body parts all over the world… WHILE IT'S HAPPENING ON SCREEN.
That doesn't bode well if it happens that early in the film and sure enough, people are talking about things instead of showing them (and if they do show them, they are still talking about it, talk about redundancy).
Yeah, I get it. You have to cram three-and-a-half story arcs from the comic books within two hours but there has to be an elegant way of presenting it. Cut out Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church); edit the movie better; bolster the relationship between Hellboy and Nimue; the list goes on…
And the CGI is… oh God, where do I begin? Okay, so Hellboy's practical effects are neat but the CGI is terrible, terrible to a point where it is distracting. There's a scene near the end where Bruttenholm is telling Hellboy how proud he is of him and all that jazz but the CGI is so laughable that I can't empathise with this father-son moment.
And seriously, when BPRD's Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) joins Hellboy on his mission, we found out that he was cursed to change into a werejaguar. But when that happens and when he returns to his human form… HE'S NOT SUPPOSE TO BE CLOTHED. I mean, his outfit was ripped apart during the transformation, right? So, how is he still attired upon his return as a human being? Is part of his curse, the reappearance of clothes to hide his junk?
(Note to self: am I really concerned about the suspension of disbelief or am I just curious about Daniel Dae Kim's nudity?)
Ultimately, the movie shows us what could be possible but the writing fails to ignite any sense of excitement. That's what separates Guillermo del Toro's version and Marshall's is that the former knows how to tell a story. Hellboy is a huge disservice to the franchise and the actors. A pity.
What to look out for
Stay for the end credits that set up a sequel (snigger). There are two mid-credit scenes and one end-credit scene, the latter that will speak to fans of the comic book.
Also, take in the complaisance of Troy James as Baba Yaga. If the director wanted to return Hellboy to its horror elements, he succeeded with James. Since his world-wide appearance in America's Got Talent last year, James has been getting jobs thanks to his 'spider-walk' and glitchy movements (see video). His Baba Yaga was the most terrifying thing in Hellboy.
Hellboy is showing in theatres now.