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In Theaters: HELLBOY (2019)

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HELLBOY
(US - 2019)

Directed by Neil Marshall. Written by Andrew Cosby. Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, Thomas Haden Church, Sophie Okonedo, Stephen Graham, Penelope Mitchell, Brian Gleeson, Alistair Petrie, Rick Warden, Nitin Ganatra, Mark Stanley, Laila Morse, Kristina Klebe, Mario de la Rosa, Markos Rounthwaite, Troy James. (R, 121 mins)

Following 2004's HELLBOY and 2008's HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, both very well-received big-screen takes on Mike Mignola's Dark Horse Comics character, director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman never got around to making a much-discussed third installment. As del Toro grew busy announcing more projects than he'll ever be able to make in one lifetime, the third film has ended up being a reboot with a new team of filmmakers headed by Neil Marshall, helming his first feature film since 2010's CENTURION. Hailed as the next big thing in horror after his 2006's acclaimed THE DESCENT, Marshall (who established his bona fides with the 2002's word-of-mouth video store hit DOG SOLDIERS) was subsequently given the cold shoulder by genre fans with his gonzo 2008 post-nuke throwback DOOMSDAY, an absolute blast that just didn't click with its intended audience. Following CENTURION, Marshall turned to television, finding acclaim with hired gun gigs on shows like BLACK SAILS, HANNIBAL, WESTWORLD, and most notably, the instant classic 2012 "Blackwater" episode of GAME OF THRONES. With Marshall working from a script by Andrew Cosby, the creator of the cult sci-fi series EUREKA, the new HELLBOY had some potential. STRANGER THINGS' David Harbour certainly looks the part as the title character, but after a good start, it peters out, looking every bit like what you'd expect from Cannon cover band Millennium Media as things eventually devolve into a blur of corner-cutting Bulgarian CGI, lunkheaded needle drops (a Spanish-language cover of the Scorpions'"Rock You Like a Hurricane" in a scene set in Tijuana, and later on, a video-gamey shootout to Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart," for some reason), and all-too-obvious signs of some post-production mangling, apparent even without recent revelations that tensions mounted when the producers fired Marshall's cinematographer against his wishes, then took the film away from him in post (Marshall has done no press for the film's release and was a no-show at the premiere), and that Marshall and Harbour apparently didn't get along during the shoot.






An agent for the US government's Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, Hellboy is dispatched by his boss and adoptive father Prof. Broom (Ian McShane) to their London counterparts at Osiris Club, where he's informed of his origins as a Nazi hellspawn by the group's blind seer Lady Hatton (Sophie Okonedo, a past Oscar-nominee for HOTEL RWANDA). He's tagging along in their quest to kill three giants when he's ambushed by turncoat Osiris agents and rescued by psychic Alice Monaghan (AMERICAN HONEY's Sasha Lane), who was saved as an infant by Hellboy when she was abducted and replaced by a hell-born hog-like creature called Gruagach (voiced by Stephen Graham). Gruagach still holds a grudge against Hellboy, and is caught under the spell of Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a fifth-century sorceress who was captured and dismembered by King Arthur (Mark Stanley) and Merlin (Brian Gleeson), who buried the pieces of her body in scattered locations all over England. Gruagach is gathering the parts to reassemble a vengeful Nimue in the present day so she can complete what she didn't finish 1500 years ago: unleashing a deadly plague upon the world and convincing Hellboy to join her on the dark side where she feels monsters belong.


For a while, HELLBOY is agreeably dumb fun, throwing in everything from vampirized Mexican wrestlers, the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur, Rasputin, witchcraft, Nazis, Leni Riefenstahl, Baba Yaga, and various gothic horror tropes. Harbour brings a more downbeat, rumpled sensibility to Hellboy that's not nearly as enjoyable as Perlman's classic interpretation, though some of the supporting actors fare better, particularly Jovovich, who sees this for the junk that it is and has fun with it, hamming it up and playing to the back row throughout (there's also an amusing scene where she grows annoyed with endless reality TV shows while waiting for Gruagach to return with one of her legs). Lane and Daniel Dae Kim (as shapeshifting agent Ben Daiamo; Kim stepped in after Ed Skrein dropped out upon learning that the character as Asian in origin) are fine as Hellboy's sidekicks, and the always-excellent McShane offers some effortless paternal gravitas in a role previously essayed by his old friend, the late, great John Hurt, even if he's undermined by some truly embarrassing CGI near the end. Thomas Haden Church plays Dark Horse fan favorite Lobster Johnson in an appearance so fleeting that calling it a walk-on would be charitable. He does turn up again midway through the interminable 13-minute (!) closing credits crawl, presumably to set up a sequel--along with yet another end credits stinger--that ain't gonna happen.


Turning HELLBOY into a hard-R gorefest with copious F-bombs isn't a dealbreaker, but once it plays out, there's no real reason for it, unless it's to pull in the gamers who like their movies to look more like Playstation and Xbox. It's also rough-going at times, especially with the introduction of Alice, where the scene unfolds as if we're supposed to know who she is, looking suspiciously like an earlier scene with her was cut. It also loses all sense of internal logic after Nimue arrives in London and embarks on a rampage like General Zod in Metropolis, destroying everything and unleashing her deadly plague, with breaking news reports warning everyone to stay inside and that the plague is set to overtake all of England in a matter of hours and the rest of Europe by the end of the day. Why then, a few scenes later, are London streets just teeming with calm pedestrians, cafes and stores operating business as usual? I mean, if you're gonna take the movie out of the hands of its director, at least pay attention to what you're throwing together in the editing room. In fairness, HELLBOY isn't terrible (though it does get perilously close to loitering at 121 minutes), but in a world where we already have two terrific HELLBOY movies that haven't aged a bit, its biggest crime is that it's just pointless and ultimately forgettable, as a reboot to both an established brand and to Neil Marshall's filmmaking career.

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