Fun and Witty Traded for Dark and Gritty
Chris Kavan - wrote on 07/12/19
This Hellboy reboot was much maligned when it was released - mostly because it's hard to compete with Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman. Director Neil Marshal is no slouch, having helmed the excellent film The Descent, as well as one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones, the first season's big battle Blackwater. But in his haste to distance himself from del Toro's version, by sticking more to the comics, he trades the wit and fun of the original for something darker and much more violent, and it just doesn't have the same impact.
This version of Hellboy is chock full of blood and cussing - and the inclusion of Ian McShane (as Hellboy's pop, Professor Broom) is the best decisions. McShane is always fun to watch - better to listen to - and he adds a nice dramatic touch - along with a somewhat foul mouth- to the proceedings. While David Harbour is a standout in Stranger Things, it's impossible to watch him as Hellboy without comparing him to Perlman. He has his moments, but he can't match Perlman's swagger. Milla Jovovich makes a decent villain - a seemingly immortal witch named Nimue, the Blood Queen - but isn't given that much to do. Likewise, sidekicks Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane aren't given enough screen time, either. A lot of grumbling was made when Lane (far removed from the red-headed Irish girl in the comics) was kept on after Kim was hired following Ed Skrein's departure when learning his character (Major Ben Daimio) was of Asian descent in the comic version. While I'm not a purist, having never followed the comics myself, it still seems like a rather strange decision by casing.
One also has to point out the somewhat hit-or-miss special effects. While I think the film turned out far better than the initial trailer presented, it still seems like some areas (the troll battle and Kim's transformation) could have been tweaked a bit more. That being said, the scene with Hellboy and Baba Yaga was pure gold, as was the end where demonic/mutant monster things run rampant over London. Overall, I would say the special effects were good enough - but I know they could have been better.
There are a lot of supporting characters who add a nice touch - including Thomas Haden Church as famed Nazi hunter Lobster Johnson (make sure to stick around post-credits for a nice extra dose), Sophie Okonedo as the oracle Lady Hatton, Penelope Mitchell as the traitorous witch Ganeida and Brian Gleeson as the wise Merlin. They don't get a lot of screen time even put together - but their contributions are well worth their time. Perhaps the strangest contribution comes from Stephen Graham, who voices the warthog Gruagach - a changeling who has a long-time grudge against Hellboy and who is the main impetuous (along with Baba Yaga) to resurrect the Blood Queen. He mostly just snarls and growls out his lines - though they do a pretty good job of making him look repugnant.
The main issue with this Hellboy is that is came after an already established (and well-liked) version. I think people would have much rather had a third entry in del Toro's vision rather than this reboot. But I think if the tables were turned, and this was the version that was released first, it would have earned just as much as a cult following - but sometimes when you try something different, it just reminds people of how good they've already had it.