Hellboy (2019)

Or 'The Director Who Came In From Hell'!


The Hellboy reboot has been announced for a long time now. The fans of the previous films had long before taken in that there would not be much relevance to the films they loved about a decade ago. At the same time, the comic fans, in much lesser numbers by comparisson, don’t need to be reminded by any wanna-be blockbuster, of what they love about this very special creation of the legendary comic artist, Mike Mignola. It is my hope that the new fanbase to be gathered by this next instalment of the character, won’t share my impressions, for their own good.

Let me give you one word for this impression: Hysterical. Let me give you some more: Another example of a super-heroic film that producers are stepping in to dominate the creative process, with calamitous results of course.
In a previous review about the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel, I talked about the scourge of producers, in conflict with the creative teams for the final product, resulting in a Frankenstein’s imbalanced, poorly constructed monster of a film. Well, it might be that theoretically, the “monstrous” concept suits Hellboy, being himself a demon spawned from the pits of Hell, raised by a Professor Broom, head of the “Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense” and brought up to hunt down and exterminate all the supernatural threats that arise. All’s well up to this point, but I don’t believe that any viewer was ready for the subsequent mess of a representation of characters, parallel stories and chases from place to place that the film had been spitting at breakneck pace for a wholeup of two hours!

It’s been less than 24 hours since I saw the movie and I really have difficulty putting its events and scenes in a coherent sequence, since most of the characters, not having done anything remarkable, are already being deleted from my memory. It was obvious that the film’s editing had not been done with conventional means, but rather with Excalibur-sized choppers, like the one Hellboy’s wielding once or twice in the movie. Most of the scenes seem half-finished before they move to the next, and many points are over-explained with wholly justified fear on the production’s part, that this whole mess shall confuse the viewers.

It really is a pity at the same time, to see how splendid talents like David Harbor (Stranger Things) and Ian McShane (American Gods) manage to hold their own against the grain, thanks to their professionalism. Harbor had the heavy burden of portraying Hellboy after Ron Perlman’s emblematic, sardonic yet romantic interpretations, and who has been closely associated with the character and not unfairly. However, Harbor did manage to offer an alternative performance, perhaps the more explosive ‘teenage’ phase of the character, compared to Perlman’s, which made me laugh quite a few times with his vitriolic humor.

Humor, of course, in the film, generally taxes to over-represent itself in the script and disappoints, as it is mostly hooligan’s humor, with exaggerated British accents by the actors, and would surely fit more into a Guy Ritchie picture (“Two Smoked Cannes” & “Rock n Rolla” ). Meaning there’s no relation to the action horror genre. I must also add that the cgi effects of the film are terribly disparate to the amazing work done in animatronics and the costumes.

I’m compelled by all these observations, to compare the new Hellboy with its descendant by director Guillermo Del Torro, master of this kind of film (see Blade II), who really approached the comic with the sensitivity of someone who is a fan of the genre and at the same time, does possess a solid artistic vision. It’s impossible for me to discern, wether present director Neil Marshall loses to Del Torro because of his skills or the ‘third hand’ that he had to face in all levels of production. It is now widely spread in the media that the shooting of the film was a nightmare, with scripts changing while in set, the producers mingling and defying the director about every small detail and being against him in every step of the way, while he, in turn, was trying to change things down from under their nose, a real “soap opera” situation.

I was able to identify, only in nuggets the original director Neil Marshall, an ’80’s era’ gore-aesthetics-loving guy (the battle with the three giants is incredible fun), known for his well-done, claustrophobic horror b-movies (‘Dog Soldiers’ & ‘Descent’). It is obvious that his Hellboy, suffocates and is not from the fumes and the cauldrons of Hell.

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