In the midst of the insanely grotesque, confused, and bloody film by Neil Marshall (The Descent, 2015), is David Harbour (Stranger Things, 2016 – ongoing), an actor who just proved his mettle as someone who can be as effective on the big screen as he is on television.
Marshall literally rushes the film, sweeping up the source material by Mike Mignola, whole; and running with it through the two hour plus run-time of the film. Running and cussing and trying very hard to make us forget that there was a time when Ron Perlman (Helboy, 2004) and Guillermo del Toro (Helboy, 2004) took the baby by its horns and gave it a good little spin, with Babe Ruth candy and the Good Samaritan kept on the side for good measure.
Ian McShane (John Wick, 2014) is impressive, dynamic and brings a kind of authoritative energy to the film, which only he can. Here he plays daddy with persuasive authority and a demanding soft-center. The combination is both; reminiscent of the polite and caring John Hurt (Alien 1979) and also tough as nails. They are all self-aware and know that the film is a reboot and this time the Hand of Doom will cause much damage and the Blood Queen, played not quite in character (nor the wardrobe) by Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, 1997), will draw blood and the censors will allow the crimson of the blood to show, even more, now that Lawrence Gordon and Niel Marshall have decided to go down the R-rated path. Yes, go down, despite the privilege, the deliverance is not what the mysteries promised.
The costume that the Queen dons could have been a little showy if not all Hela of Ragnarok fame, leastways granting salvation with a heavy-weight costume designer, Stephanie Collie on payroll, creating something that doesn’t look as if Nimue is wrapped in rags. I mean in this age of the Maleficent, and what did Jovovich ever do for the costume department to attend to her as an after thought?
Just look at Wonder Woman 1984, 2020, and what a fantastic, hardshell scales collapsing, golden job, Lindy Hemming has done through trading WW’s traditional red-white-and-blue battle gear with the Golden Eagle Armor.
It takes a man to take a razor to his throat every morning– Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm
This Hellboy seems disconnected at most meaningful intervals, unimaginative and hectic and coarse but that could be Harbour coming to terms with horns growing on his forehead. It could also be the fact that the villain here is a bond, a connection between people, instead of the very threatening Karl Ruprect Kroenen (present here with the kind of glasses they hand out at the entrance to a 3D film), or the Nazi Rasputin, or the graceful, proud, albino and scheming Prince Nuada Silverlance (Luke Goss) from ten years ago.
Alright, I’ll admit that overall I had a jolly good time watching the film, which it seemed, was falling over its own plot trappings only to stand up again and then stumble some, to rise and this time with the sword of King Arthur himself. And oh, we get to see the biological parents of Red here. All of it ‘sounds’ pretty intriguing, however, the imaginative flair that made the previous films so enjoyable is not present here. What is present is an atmosphere of apocalyptic grunge that unfortunately signifies very little. It fails to live up to its big-screen and printed predecessors. In my opinion, the decisions being taken are trifling, the design choices are being made as if for a completely different film, However, it sure doesn’t seem like it. The tender-hearted, cat-loving. the Perlman red devil looks like he’s been replaced with someone (a character) who wants chaos, someone who looks forward to super-villains to unearth, and also huge ass monsters (one of whom looks like the demon from the Evil Dead television show), monsters whose limbs slice people in half, by inserting them through the head and exiting from the pelvis.
Where The Descent was a relentless, aching, calculated adventure in dark and gave its actors no respite, none; Hellboy does falter when one of the BPRD squad members shoots HB as he is getting outta the van and HB screams back, “Hey! I’m on your side“. That one line, I guess, encompasses what the team is trying to do. Where Perlman had a face that could have passed for a human’s if not for the red paint, Harbour, it seems, was meant to play Hellboy, with the sunken eyes and the whole damn deal, and then things get serious and the horns grow to their full size – nonetheless, the inadequate judgments, the disputes between Marshall and colossal, influential producers Lawrence Gordon (Die Hard) and Lloyd Levin (Watchmen, 2009), producers who kept interfering and meddling with Marshal’s vision, imposing their own ideas, dividing the actors to such limits that they adapted to changing their own lines making the plot even more incongruous. This was in addition to the infinite script re-writes and allegations by Levin’s attorney, Martin Singer, who (with his very limited knowledge of the craft) claims that the design of the film and the overall feel was a process of exhaustive design and evolution process, while Marshal denies the latter statement, and I somewhat agree since actors were walking off the set after a couple of takes (not enough for the best take to be selected for the final film), making more takes impossible for the exasperated and infuriated director.
Yes, the film did make bad choices, yes, it is an overzealous attempt to revisit the content of del Toro films without matching their sophistication, and instead, making a film that opened to scathing reviews and looked all confused, involuted, with so much happening without a damn reason.
Yes, it is all that, however, this pilgrim feels as if the admission price was worth it.
In the end, the film plops into the lap of the viewer, with its traditional tropes, even maybe conventional, an extravagance of folklore, the indulgence of mindless rampage and put together all very loosely, together is a barrage of exposition; notwithstanding the scrambling blues-rock soundtrack, which does bring a sense of cool to the scenes, just like Shoot To Thrill (or some other track) by AC/ DC whenever Iron Man makes an appearance in The Avengers, 2012)
Foul-mouthed, witless, with an impotent super villain in rags, Hellboy may be the worse film made last year but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a horrifyingly entertaining flick, just that reasoning must be left outside the cinema, just like how the very tall, eight-story high monster is wreaking havoc on the city as people start to bunch up at the feet and then there are monsters that tear a man by holding him by the legs and ripping him apart, upside down.
It is all very well, but as I said, it does not have the proficiency nor the sagacity of the original two films, instead, what we have here, boys and girls, is the quick wit of Marshall, which almost always ends up in a lot of gore and guts and cuss words. They were definitely trying to make this one as close to the comic books/post, 9/11 collective consciousness as possible and as a result, ended up meddling the Hellboy lore and the baggage it carries.
Apart from that, the cheetah was cool as fuck; just that his pants have just two slits on each side when he transforms back and in the end, even that wasn’t necessary because taking off the riot control uniform and putting it back on would take so much time and Marshall does not have time, he was busy trying to convince the producers to let him make a film for fuck’s sake, just watch Dog Soldiers, a fun spin on the traditional angle that being a werewolf is a curse which damns the person no matter what. Watch the film and you will know what I mean.
Apart from the little gripe (heh) above, the film has the potential to be something so much more than what it is. Still, this is the first time that someone has the balls to tackle Red, not with words, but with much CGI. So much so that it puts Hellboy’s head on fire.
And that is not a good thing, no ma’am, not at all.
Not too bad, and not at all as bad as I made it sound; I tried.
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