Hellboy (2019)

This is not my Hellboy.

Let’s just clear the air from the onset and declare that the new Hellboy, the R-rated version sans Guillermo del Toro, is downright repugnant. Gone, by way of hyper-violent-blunt-force extraction, is del Toro’s human delicacy and warmth for oddness. In its place is unrelenting grotesque violence, laughably sub-par CGI and some of the worst editing in a genre film since Suicide Squad.

In a world where cinephiles are desperately craving a third del Toro/Ron Perlman Hellboy, there is simply no good reason for this soft reboot to exist outside of, you know it; greed and money.

This Hellboy “film” is the demon spawn of the lessons learned from the Deadpool franchise and it reeks of artless corporate machinations. Take a character people are keen to see (check), throw as little money as possible into the production ($50 million – also check), amp up the f-bombs and dismemberment, and hope for the best (check, check).

If you’re lukewarm on the existence of the project, the film begins by confirming your worst fears with not one, but two abysmal opening sequences. The first is a black and white prologue featuring Milla Jovovich as Nimue, the Blood Queen. She’s betrayed by King Arthur and his knights and the over-the-top bloodspraying begins. It’s not so much the needless violence that leaves you nauseous, but the choppy, highschool-level of editing. They reuse a shot twice in short succession, and then jumpcut in and out without any sense of cohesion or logic. It establishes a disorientating music video style that remains for the rest of the film.

The ensuing sequence and our proper introduction to David Harbour’s Hellboy takes place in Mexico in a wrestling arena. Designed as a mostly harmless and supposedly fun way of acclimatising ourselves to this particular incarnation of Hellboy, this scene acts (unknowingly) as a metaphor for the entire film. Hellboy is in Tijuana to search for Ruiz, a missing agent, only to find his old friend has been bastardised and transformed into a hideous vile abomination.

We (the audience) have travelled into cinemas, hoping to spend time with our long lost friend Hellboy (it’s been a decade), only to find a cheap, ghastly imitation standing before us. We are forced to spend two hours with Not-Ron.

And wrestling is also, you know, fake.

But none of this is Harbour’s fault. He is 100% committed to making the best of a shockingly bad situation. The Stranger Things star, and everyone’s favourite dad-figure, does what he can to differentiate himself and provide a juvenile level of intensity and defiance. It works for as long as the surrounding parts allow. It must be hard when you’re stuck in a necessitous-Resident Evil spinoff and you have to battle a giant CGI-pigman and form a loving on-screen relationship with Ian McShane (who I usually love), a man who seems incapable of loving or caring for anything.

The film both visually and in the editing room chops, splatters and stumbles its way through narrative hell to its predictable conclusion, where it is temporarily saved by 30 seconds of inspired creature design, before finally ending its aggressive assault on our senses.

Judging by its $4.5 million opening weekend figures, let’s hope this abhorrent facsimile of our cult-favourite hero goes back to the corporate abyss it came from. There’s an audience here, it’s probably just the same people who misinterpret Fight Club as a masterpiece. It is, but not for the reasons you think. 

Now can we all agree to crowd-fund Guillermo’s $120 million price tag for that third film, so we can wipe this horrible taste of bile from our mouths.

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