Like a lot of previous efforts to reboot a property, Neil Marshall’s handling of “Hellboy” was the apparent product of studio interference and clashing ideas that resulted in a hectic shoot for just about everyone. That’s a shame since when Neil Marshall is allowed to unfold his own ideas and monsters, he gives us “The Descent,” and “Dog Soldiers.” It’s not to say that “Hellboy” is a bad movie, it’s just one half of a very good reboot that’s fun, and action packed, and one half of a sloppy studio film that’s boring, over explained, and sloppily tailored for sequels, prequels, and spin offs.
In what can be described as a reboot of the Mike Mignola property, director Neil Marshall directs a new version of “Hellboy.” Now for more adult crowds, we meet “Hellboy,” a foul mouthed and vicious monster hunter who works for the covert corporation the BPRD. The legendary half-demon superhero (now David Harbour in the titular role) called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants. There he discovers The Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), a resurrected ancient sorceress thirsting to avenge a past betrayal by King Arthur and his knights. 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 and the rise of a monster apocalypse.
As with most of Neil Marshall’s films, “Hellboy” is a lofty and ambitious movie that seems hesitant to let him realize his own vision. A lot of “Hellboy” seems sliced and diced in the editing room with so much added by the studio to relatively hold our hands through the narrative. There’s endless narration, endless flashbacks, a ton of exposition and characters stopping to explain things, and it eventually just stops the film’s speedy pacing to a screeching halt and begins to test our patience. Marshall never really allows the audience to soak in this universe, and embrace his new bold vision for the character, and there’s not a lot of time to do so. Hellboy doesn’t get a lot of time to convey his personality and often times is written like a demonic John McClane.
It’s disappointing considering the character is still fun and David Harbour is very good in acting underneath the heavy make up and prosthetics. While Ron Perlman is the definitive Hellboy, Harbour could very well have proven a dazzling successor, it’s just disappointing the script doesn’t let him give much of the pathos and heart as the lovable lug, that we’ve seen him put on display in “Stranger Things.” I’m just fine with Marshall offering a cynical antithesis to Guillermo Del Toro’s more wondrous pictures, but there isn’t a remarkable amount of chemistry with the characters, nor is there much emphases on the characters as a whole. The crux of the film seems to be the relationship between Broom and Hellboy, but that’s barely emphasized at all, thus the stakes feel low.
To its credit, “Hellboy” has some damn good moments, including a lot of monster mashes with a vampiric luchadore, a giant warthog, and a great rumble with a trio giants. Those moments sadly fade away when the movie slows to a still to explain legends and mythos, and the boring villainess Nimue, is allowed to monologue at least four times during the course of her screen time. And that’s a disadvantage considering Nimue is a boring villainess played by awful Milla Jovovich, who has to read hammy “super villain” dialogue. I like Marshall’s proposed vision of “Hellboy,” and with a better amount of elbow room, I think he could have delivered something riveting and exciting. As it is, “Hellboy” just an okay restart of the Mike Mignola series that could have benefited from stepping back and letting Neil Marshall be Neil Marshall.