15 years ago, critically acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro (or, “Guillermo of the Bull”) delved into the world of independent comic book heroes when he adapted creator Mike Mignola’s rough ‘n ready crimson skinned demonic adventurer Hellboy into a beautifully cinematic form, headed by tough guy actor Ron Pearlman in the role of his career. 4 years later, the sequel, Hellboy II: the Golden Army fell short of monetary expectations and thus damned the franchise to freeze over, despite Del Toro, Pearlman, and millions of fans’ cries for a third installment. Well, after a decade plus wait, this year saw a new Hellboy flick finally claw its way from Hollywood’s fetid womb! … as a reboot.
Is this new iteration of The Right Hand of Doom worth selling your soul for? Given that “reboot” is one of our Seven Words You Can’t Say Around the Tomb, its chances of being so are about as good as Frosty’s snowballs surviving water skiing the Lake of Fire.
If you saw the original Hellboy, you know Big Red’s origin. If not, here’s the Thrown-off-a-Cliff Notes version – in an effort to turn the tide of WW2 back to the Nazis’ side of the pendulum, Hitler (yes, that Hitler) hired Rasputin (yes, that Rasputin) to summon Satan (yes, that Satan) to destroy the Allied Powers. The good guys smash the Reich riff-raff, but not in time to prevent the conjuring. Instead of Big Daddy Beelzebub though, the ritual brought the Muppet Babies fun-size version to our world. Though killing the literal hellspawn would seem like a good option, the good guys’ leading arcanist’s natural paternal urges kicked in, leading him to“adopt” the crimson skinned scamp and name him
Carl Hellboy. Raised among the supernatural and unable to live among the humans due to his demonic appearance, 70 years later he now works as a member of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (Weren’t creative enough to come up with a catchier acronym than “BPRD”? It doesn’t even spell anything!) battling evil in all of its forms. Well, not so much its human forms, just its monster-faced, tentacle swinging, nether horror forms.
The form evil takes for this movie actually is very human, belonging to a centuries old mega-witch named Nimue. Not to be confused with Little Nemo or Leonard Nemoy, Nimue had her ass handed to her by King Arthur (yes, that… you get it) and Merlin (and a dude who would’ve been a gold medalist in the javelin toss) back in fifth century England and is being resurrected in the current day by her acolyte Gruagach, who looks like an ancestor to Bebop of “and Rocksteady” fame. If Hellboy and his associates Ben (a special forces guy who’s specist against monsters) and Alice (a psychic medium and master of Tilda Swinton’s “Astral Punch” attack from Doctor Strange) can’t prevent her from being restored to her full power, Nimmy will tear down the walls of our reality and bring an everlasting darkness to Earth that will see it overrun by the monsters of myth and legend and Clive Barker’s wet dreams. Seriously, she’s got some straight up “Hellraiser by way of Heironymous Bosch” shit in-store for we hairless-apes! Too bad the whole movie couldn’t have just been two hours of that…
Yes, your lying eyes aren’t lying in this instance: this movie runs 120 minutes. I know that’s become the norm for runtimes on blockbusters these days (unless your title begins with “Avengers”), but Jesus vampire hunting Christ does this movie drag! It’s not for a lack of content, because Cosby (not that Cosby) and Marshall pack a whole chocolate fountain of fudge into their flick, adapting as much of Mignola’s original material as can be with what space they were given. It feels like they were trying to plant the seeds for an entire Mignola cinematic universe. Well, they buried said seeds in plenty of fertilizer, but it smells like creative interference forcibly redirected their green thumbs straight up their Whitman Samplers.
You know what made these two hours feel like slivers of glass being slowly pushed under my fingernails? For starters, the special effects are bad. Not “digital diarrhea” bad, but far too bad for a fifty-million dollar feature. Watching Hellboy brawl with a trio of computer generated giants made me feel levels of awkwardness and disappointment not felt since I saw Bob Crane’s snuff film. Beyond needing an eye wash station on hand to prevent permanent ocular damage, the dialogue too was… not great. And as much as I love David Harbour the man, David Harbour the Hellboy is sand paper Q-Tips in my ear canals. Ron Pearlman killed it when he took on the role, but Harbour’s “frat boy going through an emo phase” version just killed my interest deader than Don Rickles’ pickle. I hope the fault doesn’t lay with him and is instead another one of those “creative interference” cases, but whoever is to blame (it could be Mignola if internet sources are to be believed), a curse of Swamp Thing ass upon them!
Despite my derogatory diatribe, Hellboy isn’t an absolute waste of time, as I’ve lost far more of my life to far worse movies. There are some moments of moderate entertainment in the script, the more “horror and gore”-centric overall bend of the flick was welcome (and a move supported by Mignola), we get a great secondary antagonista in Baba Yaga (that would’ve made for a better main baddie than the charisma vacuum that is the Blood Queen did), and there were a few scenes that could’ve been better than okay with some more time and money thrown at them. In particular, the intro (that I refuse to believe is not an homage to the wrestling match from Samson/Santo Vs. the Vampire Women), the aforementioned 3-on-1 battle royale, and the all-too-brief “London Apocalypse” contributed to saving the movie from being completely drown in codswallop.
The movie presses hard for a sequel that I’d bet my(ke Tyson’s) soul on never happening, But, if we were just going to get the same producer interruptions and impractical effects of a turd sandwich we were served this time, it’s better for all involved (especially the audience) that this franchise go back into its stasis chamber for another ten years.
Two Nick Caves out-of-Five
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