Monday 10 June 2019

Hellboy 2019 ★☆☆☆☆

Rebooting Hellboy was always going to be a hell of a risk. Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman’s 2004 adaptation and 2008 sequel are iconic, and boast legions of fans even to this day - so it came as a shock that director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) had the audacity to have another crack at it. But it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The project began as a sequel to Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Yes, you read that right, this was supposed to be Hellboy III. But Guillermo del Toro was not offered the full writer-director capacity he had performed for the first two Hellboy outings, and Ron Perlman refused to return to portray the eponymous anti-hero without del Toro’s involvement. And so, the project fell to pieces and was put back together again by Neil Marshall, who decided to go his own way and make the film a gore-filled R-rated adaptation. The result is a hot, steaming pile of demon shit. It’s disappointing, absolutely. But it isn’t really all that shocking, is it?

This new take sees the legendary half-demon superhero (now portrayed by David Harbour of Stranger Things) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Resident Evil’s Milla Jovovich, obviously), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Suddenly caught in a clash between the supernatural and the human, Hellboy is now hell-bent on stopping Nimue without triggering the end of the world.

I feel sorry for David Harbour. He was destined to fail. While his performance – and indeed Jovovich’s, to some extent – isn’t bad by any stretch, it exists in the shadow of Ron Perlman’s beloved performance. Much like when Quinton Jackson portrayed B.A. Baracus in the 2010 A-Team, it’s next to impossible to take on an iconic role without being unfavourably compared to the original unless you do something pretty damn special with the role, as Heath Ledger did with his Joker. Unfortunately for Harbour, the character has already been perfected by Ron “The Perl” Perlman, and to try and make it your own now is futile.

And so, 2019’s Hellboy giveth and 2019’s Hellboy taketh away. While the fans – and casual movie-goers – were hopeful, this film was everything the world hoped it wouldn’t be. But while Perlman’s presence is entirely missed, the most troubling and gaping lack is the lack of Guillermo del Toro. The auteur’s style brought so much to the first two Hellboy films, and it is greatly missed here. While some attempts have been made by Neil Marshall to replicate del Toro’s style, much like Harbour’s attempts, it is futile. But Ian McShane is in it. So it can’t be all bad, can it? Ian McShane elevates the lowest of shit by a couple of points just by being there, the beautiful bastard. It is a shame, but not one that comes as much of a surprise. This Hellboy is utter rubbish. 

Sam Love

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