Catching Up Review: “Hellboy” could have been great, but it’s not.

Because sometimes I don’t get to a screening, or a film just isn’t screened for press. Herewith, my take on the Hellboy reboot!

It is, however, a whole lot of messy, stupid fun if you can get past the screenplay that crams so much into it that nothing makes sense. This film has moments that hint at the incredible film it could have been, but never reached. Hell, it has a hard enough time grabbing stuff from the lowest shelf, let alone a high bar. That’s a pity, as this film deals with questions like who decides what’s monstrous, the outsider, and the family you choose, yet it buries those ideas deep in the ground, and dishes up a lack of emotional payoff instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the monsters this film trots out. I enjoyed the effects; even the silliest CGI works in this universe. And seeing Ian McShane, Mila Jovovich, Daniel Dae Kim and David Harbour is always a good time. But re-watch American Gods, Resident Evil, Hawaii 5-O and Stranger Things before deciding to plunk down your hard-earned here. Because the behind-the-scenes drama bleeds into the Hellboy, destroying everything in its path.

As it stands, this Hellboy tries to cram bits from Hellboy comics stories Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury. But trying to fit all this into a two hour movie does a huge disservice to those stories. There’s a lot going on in each of these tales, and Hellboy does its best to plow through them as quickly as possible, to get to the blood and gore.

There’s a lot of the red stuff here, yet I was unimpressed. It felt like a little kid was told they could do as much Bad Stuff as they could imagine, and went nuts in the most uninspired way possible. That feeling started from the very first word in the beginning voiceover: “Fuck.” Ooh, so you can use the f-word! But it’s used for shock value, rather than in a way that feels integral to a character. And damn if I can remember if the word is ever used again. (Then again I was struggling to give a damn much of the time I spent watching this.)

But about the gore that the creators were so proud of during press junkets and production. Yes, it’s impressive – it’s on the CGI-heavy-but-fun level of Jovovich’s Resident Evil series – but like that f-bomb that opens the film, it feels tacked on. It’s blood without catharsis, violence as video-game, as one fight after another gets gorier and gorier. Yawn. Pass the popcorn. This film has a strong Van Helsing vibe, except with this film you’ll need mind-altering substances. For Helsing, that’s just a plus.

This film could have easily been trimmed to a PG-13 rating to get more butts in seats, and perhaps to fill those bloody scenes with moments of character developm…oh who am I kidding? The producers saw Deadpool and wanted some of that sweet sweet R-rated cheddar. But they didn’t think about making a coherent, interesting film. Instead, bring forth the blood and circus! And yeah, this horrorhound is as surprised as you are that I’ve think blood and guts unnecessary, but in this film it’s pointless spectacle that leads to nothing. And I say that after watching – and enjoying – The Green Inferno.

Oh Jesus, Thomas Haden Church is wasted here too. He plays Lobster Johnson, a noir-ish vigilante who’s more legend than truth in the modern day. Lobster is supposed to be a dark, threatening hero, but Church’s performance paints the character as a blowhard involved in his own self-importance. I’m gonna chalk that up to the problems with tone I’ve mentioned earlier, but it’s a real downer to see such a popular character get treated like a joke. I actually winced during his scenes; once during his first appearance, and again when he re-appears later, because I’d hoped I had misjudged the hammy nature of the character’s portrayal. I hadn’t.

I won’t talk about the other performances, because the criminal misuse of talent by this film’s creators just makes me sad. But the waste of THC (and Lobster Johnson) made me angry. But let’s just say the American actors here should have been given more than a quick tour of  The Dick Van Dyke School of British Accents.

So go see Hellboy if you’re on some kind of mind-altering substance (booze, your legal drug of choice, or a hella large amount of sugar) and have a fun time hooting at this film while egging on the characters as they go through yet another beatdown scene. Take a moment or two to enjoy the monster FX, which are excellent. Then go home and sleep it off. Or just watch it on Netflix when you’re sick of everything else in your queue.  Big Red deserved better. So did the entire cast, who gave their all for creators who could care less about anything other than the bottom line.

tl;dr: Hellboy is sloppy as fuck, with an inability to blend storylines together, but it’s a great drunk watch.

And herewith, your Hellboy 2019 drinking game! Grab your spare liver and have 911 on standby, as alcohol poisoning is imminent.

Take a drink when:

– a character the plot treats as important gets introduced that hasn’t been fleshed out
– a subplot gets introduced and dropped in less than 10 minutes
– Thomas Hayden Church’s Lobster fails to note the tone in the room
– the film’s creators fail to figure out the tone in the room
– you note yet another spinoff idea shoved into the story
– you wish all this great FX was in a better film
– you wish all this great talent was in a better film
– you wish you were watching any other film

 

 

 

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