That New Hellboy (a review)

My esteemed friend and associate Mr. Bloom of the excellent Toisto site loaned us this movie on Blu-ray. I don’t think he’s fully reviewed it on Toisto but he did have some good things to say about it and encouraged us to take a look.

I won’t go so far as to disagree with my lad Mr. Bloom here – the good things he had to say about the new Hellboy movie are definitely things I concur about. Overall, though, I think we’re going to need one more reboot.

Here’s the thing.

I enjoyed the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. Like, all three of them. I don’t know that I loved them, but I enjoyed them. They had Bruce Campbell in them. They were fine. And the Amazing reboot came so hard on their heels and just stank up the place so much, I didn’t even bother watching them for a long time. I don’t think I’ve actually seen either one all the way through, just some bits with the electrical guy (was it Denzel Washington? Fuck me). Anyway, this isn’t about Spider-Man. Not really.

Then when they rebooted Spider-Man (I know, this isn’t about Spider-Man, I’m getting to that) again for the Avengers story, I was back on board and realised that yes, they got it right now, this is Spidey as he’s meant to be.

Same shit with Hellboy, only even more so. Because while I was mildly entertained by the Raimi Spider-Man movies and was there for Bruce, I really liked the Del Toro Hellboy movies and was there for Ron, Doug, Selma, and pretty much all the actors and characters and the story in general. It was, if not perfectly accurate to the comics (with which I am unfamiliar but I trust my sources), then at least a pretty spot-on film adaptation. And I can’t say a bad word about Del Toro’s vision. Every movie he touches turns to golden nightmare fuel of the most wonderful kind.

So, this movie is basically Amazing Hellboy. It felt like a movie they were making just to hold onto the intellectual property rights, even if that’s not what was happening. An attempt was made, as they say on the Internet these days. And now we can sit back and wait for the Dark Horse Expanded Universe re-reboot which will, once and for all, get it right and allow me to watch a Hellboy movie without saying “I miss the Ron Perlman ones.”

Because this wasn’t that. I knew, as soon as the metaphorical curtain went up and we were back in fucking King Arthur’s Britain and Merlin was there, that this wasn’t that. This was the one we had to have before we get to have that.

But still, for all this lengthy and whiny preamble, it wasn’t a horrible movie. It had some glimmering moments of greatness. It had some visually stunning scenes (particularly the attack of the apocalypse-monstrosities in the last ten minutes). It had, of course, a lot of hilariously brutal mega-violence and a certain amount of swearing. Which, you know, fine.

They were pretty damn amazing, for a few seconds. And there were a few others throughout the movie and some really nice visuals. Very Del Toro even if he wasn’t involved.

David Harbour, who we know and love from Stranger Things (and I didn’t even know it was him until I read about it later, I could not have picked it) did a pretty great job. No, he couldn’t do as well as Perlman, because Perlman has become the only possible movie Hellboy, until some as-yet unforeseen Tom Holland equivalent appears and makes us realise Perlman was kind of a Maguire. But he did a good job anyway. I am unfamiliar with the comic, like I say, but I think he got closer to the original comic character, and he was close enough to a raw version of the Perlman movie Hellboy that it was satisfying for a Perlman-Hellboy fanboy to watch.

Nope, still can’t see it.

He just didn’t have much to do, sadly. Just a lot of being thrown around and stabbed, then walking it off, then being bashed some more. Raimi would definitely have made Bruce Campbell do this shit. He got maybe two chuckle-aloud funny lines in the whole movie. The dialogue was bad, and the overall screenplay was a mess. I blame the writers for the former but not the latter, by the way. I feel like they did the best they could with a set of demands they could never have met. But it wouldn’t have killed them to give us better dialogue. They had David Harbour and Ian McShane. Ian McShane, for God’s sake!

You know what would be cool, and what I will be pretending was the case until further notice? That Hellboy and American Gods are part of the same universe and Professor Broom was Mister Wednesday all along, and we’re building up to a crossover. The mythos and worldbuilding wouldn’t even need to be changed!

There were a few other characters in it, chiefly Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan (medium? Psychic? Witch?) Milla Jovovich as Blood Queen Nimue, and Daniel Dae Kim as Daimio. All of whom did the best they could with the material they were given, but were definitely let down by the material they were given.

“Why don’t we put her in charge?”

I was interested to read that Ed “Frances” Skrein had turned down the role of Daimio because of the whitewashing issue, incidentally. I think he made the right call, for several reasons. Daniel Dae Kim did a decent job with a not-particularly-compelling character, and everyone’s happy. I would have been disappointed to see Skrein there, he’s typecast for me now (after Deadpool and Alita) as a love-to-hate type of sneering jerk.

So, yeah. There it was. A messy and over-crowded set of plot events and scenes (just going the Spider-Man Homecoming route and taking out the origin story that was directly cribbed from the old movies anyway would have been one less set of scenes to follow), an absolutely stupid Chief Baddie’s Minion (whose story folded into the other characters’ back-stories nicely, but would have been better if the minion character himself had been literally anything but Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and a whole lot of pacing and dialogue issues made this a splattery bit of meh for our Sunday evening. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I award this movie an Amazing Spider-Man out of a possible Marvel Avengers Spider-Man.

About Hatboy

I’m not often driven to introspection or reflection, but the question does come up sometimes. The big question. So big, there’s just no containing it within the puny boundaries of a single set of punctuationary bookends. Who are these mysterious and unsung heroes of obscurity and shadow? What is their origin story? Do they have a prequel trilogy? What are their secret identities? What are their public identities, for that matter? What are their powers? Their abilities? Their haunted pasts and troubled futures? Their modus operandi? Where do they live anyway, and when? What do they do for a living? Do they really have these fantastical adventures, or is it a dazzlingly intellectual and overwrought metaphor? Or is it perhaps a smug and post-modern sort of metaphor? Is it a plain stupid metaphor, hedged around with thick wads of plausible deniability, a soap bubble of illusory plot dependent upon readers who don’t dare question it for fear of looking foolish? A flight of fancy, having dozed off in front of the television during an episode of something suitably spaceship-oriented? Do they have a quest, a handler, a mission statement, a department-level development objective in five stages? I am Hatboy.
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15 Responses to That New Hellboy (a review)

  1. Joonatan Itkonen says:

    Honestly, I agree with all of this – I just happened to for some reason or another enjoy it even with all these issues.

    I *loved* the Baba Yaga stuff, and the troll fight was a lot of fun. I also have a soft spot for the King Arthur mythology, so I’m easily suckered by anything that even has him show up for a moment. I even remember enjoying the first ten minutes of a Transformers film because of that inclusion, that’s how bad I want more Arthur lore in my movies. And Sandman from Spider-Man 3 showing up as some crazy American Avenger type to be there at Hellboy’s birth! And how could you not love the “quit while you’re a head” joke? It’s so bad and delicious.

    It’s a mess, and it can’t touch Del Toro’s films, but I have a thing for these kinds of messes.

    • stchucky says:

      I concur. I forgot to mention the Baba Yaga bit, that was great. “Quit while you’re ahead” would have been better if he’d said “quit while you’re … eh,” and dropped the head. That’s what I mean about the writing, it wouldn’t have taken much to make it better in terms of dialogue.

      But USian movies over-labouring joke punchlines is a known thing.

      All in all it was fun to watch. Just could have been so much better.

  2. dreameling says:

    Worth renting for €4,99 at Google Play?

  3. stchucky says:

    In other news, the new Sonic movie is looking … better?

  4. Pingback: Gonzo Blockbusters | Hatboy's Hatstand

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