Hellboy is the goriest motion picture in years, and I give it props for that. It’s also the most garish comic-book movie in years, maybe since Catwoman, and a prime example of camp gone horribly wrong. Directed by master of Descent and Game of Thrones alum Neil Marshall, this needless reboot has been cut to shreds by overbearing others (producers, executives, who knows) and often suffers from unfinished effects, unfunny one-liners, and a messy plot that skips from one scene or character to another with the un-finesse of a boorish teenager. There are three or four really big, really cool ideas that could’ve made for compelling movies all on their own. Instead they’re crammed together here, for the sake of a studio desperate for IP. There are two or three fight scenes of a reasonable caliber, ruined by generic metal beats in place of actual music. You’d be forgiven for believing Hellboy was made in 2000, not 2019. Hell, Marshall even employs great practical FX and creature-feature makeup for a number of characters, only for the next scene to involve cartoonish demons or a badly rendered hellscape. One old hag with pegs for legs and a mean face is so creepy I almost wish she were the villain.
No, it’s Hellboy versus some odd cross between Arthurian legend and Bible lore. Milla Jovovich vamps it up nicely, but she’s overshadowed by an upright-walking, talking, giant hog-man they call a “changeling,” or something like it, some creature who commiserates with fairies (another movie right there) and the likes of other fantasy genre fiends. David Harbour is a mixed bag, at once properly grizzled for the role and slightly too mature to pull off the role of an overgrown child. As his adopted father Dr. Broom, Ian MacShane is what you would expect, a kindly sort of bellower with a good beard and plenty of gravitas. Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim pop up as two sidekicks in a long, long line of character introductions. For every other scene, there’s another character popping up to tell us why they want in on this gnarly battle to save or destroy the world. Hellboy is gnarly, for both good and bad, offering up dead kids, intestines, and severed limbs upon severed limbs. It’s all pretty gross, but I like being provoked. I just don’t like being lost for no good reason. Hellboy is so intent on racing from beat to beat, skipping over subplots wholesale, that it leaves the audience twisting, squirming in the wind.