MOVIE REVIEW – Oh, boy … – We could say that about the rebooted Hellboy, which, after Guillermo del Toro’s first two films, was trying to make a comic-like comeback with the well-known “hellish guy” adventures. Unfortunately, we had to find out that this was a complete failure…
Guillermo del Toro had shot two very beautiful films, had to close his trilogy, but the business decided otherwise. Hellboy, the hero created by Mike Mignola, is entitled to a reboot by Neil Marshall (The Descent). David Harbor aka Stranger Things Sheriff takes over the role of Ron Perlman, and confronts Milla Jovovich as a witch. Curiosity and excitement.
There was the mourning of this Hellboy 3, the planned conclusion of the Guillermo del Toro films where the character created by Mike Mignola was to unleash hell on Earth, as announced in Hellboy II: The Cursed Gold Legions. Delayed, threatened, discussed, this end of trilogy was definitely buried in February 2017. It took only a few months for the reboot to be formalized with a new team.
The context makes sense with this Hellboy 2019, stuck between repetition, remix and reinvention. Put in the hands of Neil Marshall, who never really took off after the cardboard of The Descent in 2005, this reboot was driven by Mike Mignola, more involved than the films of Del Toro. Hence a new tone, both lighter and horrifying, which unfortunately fails at almost every level.
That one of the best scenes openly eyeing the universe of Del Toro, and replaying the Hellboy idea that opens the gates of hell on Earth to realize the prophecy of chaos, says a lot about the inability of this reboot to find himself. It is all the more striking that the marriage between the universe of Mignola and that of the director of The Form of Water and The Labyrinth of Pan was harmonious on the two previous films. At best very average, at worst grotesque, Hellboy 2019 is a failure.
The demon of Boredom
Neil Marshall was the main reason to wait for this Hellboy with curiosity, given his horror-oriented movie and bloody show at the movies, but also on the small screen (Westworld, Hannibal and Game Of Thrones). But there are more Dog Soldiers than The Descent in this reboot parade with his Rated R, become a selling point sometimes very silly.
Certainly, there are bloody images and more victims assumed than in the current blockbusters, but it’s never just a jitters effect. In the climax, there is even an entire sequence of massacre that can be completely removed without affecting the rest. Blood and violence do not serve the atmosphere or the universe, but seem awkwardly laid to try to coax the public.
It is the image of the antagonist, the Blood Queen interpreted by Milla Jovovich. Associated with the Z of Resident Evil, the actress showed in the past that she was able to significantly better in the presence of a good scenario and a role worthy of the name. This is far from the case here, as this medieval witch is ridiculous.
Shabby look, dialogue without personality, basic motivations, not very clear powers: Nimue is a failure in large widths, which never has the opportunity to be anything other than a doll well-coiffed and stupidly nasty. His supposedly ambiguous relationship with Hellboy is so overflown that it’s finally laughable. It’s even more significant that in comics, Nimue is a big opponent.
The source of the problem is well beyond Neil Marshall and the interpreters, as this reboot leaves the impression to be passed under a roller-compressor until becoming a greyish product without soul. The new Hellboy embodied by David Harbor illustrates the problem very well: the actor powered by Stranger Things spends his time talking loudly to exist, without ever bringing any emotion. This is particularly problematic in a film built on the ambiguity of Hellboy, torn between his humanity and his demonic face.
Everything seems stacked and so flew over, including a heavy use of flashbacks that breaks the rhythm. And no character escapes it. Hellboy’s relationship with his adoptive father (though played by the excellent Ian McShane) comes down to a few scenes without flavor, when Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) is only a tool relegated to the third plane.
It’s even worse on the side of Alice Monaghan, more than under-exploited despite a beautiful idea of casting with Sasha Lane, revelation of American Honey. His place in the team is a bit ridiculous, especially when the film reduces his powers to so little. Wanting to escape the classic romantic dynamics, at the center of Del Toro’s films with Liz Sherman (who was also a strong joker in terms of power), this reboot is shot in the foot.
The least thing was then to go headlong into the gargantuan spectacle, stupid and evil. It was the only excuse for such hollow characters, and such a trivial plot. It was even logical on the part of the director of Doomsday, who demonstrated his ability to film violence, battle and bloody sweat.
Again, cold shower. Hellboy oscillates between some beautiful things, not very satisfying special effects, and really nasty pictures. It’s a movie where a fat, edgy humanoid boar (with an excellent make-up and the brilliant voice of Stephen Graham) meets, and a kind of psychic vomit that makes the dead talk (one of the ugliest ideas seen on Hollywood screens for years).
Neil Marshall tries to pack two spectacular action scenes (one of which serves as an epilogue), built on the same idea of a twirling camera, but the result lacks finesse, and suffers from a poor artistic direction.
If there is one moment that stands out, it’s the short confrontation between Hellboy and Baba Yaga. This character of witch present in the comics gives rise to a very beautiful moment, where the thrill disputes it with the discomfort. The makeup is bluffing (signed Joel Harlow), the staged inspired and atmosphere, bewitching. But it is ultimately this landmark scene that best symbolizes the failure of the film.
This parenthesis beyond the real has no other narrative usefulness than to roughly give a hint to Hellboy, and thus allow the plot to move stupidly at once. And with its pleasant taste for makeup, materials, chiaroscuro, and this character as fascinating as horrible, the memory of Guillermo del Toro returns more beautiful.
To summarize the failure of this reboot to the comparison with Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Cursed Gold Legions would be as lazy as simplistic. It does not help the case, but the real problem is elsewhere: Hellboy 2019 is wobbly and tasteless and has nothing to offer.