I’ve only really read one issue of ‘Hellboy’ and saw both movies and enjoyed them immensely, at the time. But I had since rewatched ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’ and found it very dated and slow. There were many interesting things about it but it was a product of its time and didn’t hold up.
Watching the second Hellboy movie lead me to believe that a reboot was in order, especially now in this age of R-Rated comic book movies doing so well. There were many things going for this new reincarnation of ‘Hellboy.’ They got Neil Marshall (one of ‘Game of Thrones’ more prominent directors) to direct and they brought in David Harbour (of ‘Stranger Things’) to wear the mantle and even bringing in Milla Jovovich to play the villain known as ‘The Blood Queen’ was an inspired choice. The trailer looked promising and it was given a quite challenging schedule of coming after ‘Shazam’ and ‘Captain Marvel’ and right before ‘Avengers: End Game.’
But after the 2-hour onslaught of that is ‘Hellboy,’ I feel very conflicted about this film. There’s a lot to like about it. The story centers around Hellboy’s struggle with who he is and what his role is in this world. He is a demon, a child of Satan himself, yet he was brought up as a weapon against the forces of evil and darkness. His father figure, Professor Broom (played by Ian McShane) is not an easy man to deal with and their relationship is strained.
He is fighting for the safety of a world that is afraid of him and he is forced into hiding and because of his demon heritage, he may have been around since the time of World War II, he is still just a teenager in demonic years.
Marshall and scriptwriter Andrew Cosby (with consultations with ‘Hellboy’ creator Mike Mignola) makes sure to have a lot of fun working on Hellboy’s struggle as he faces a century-old witch, who is set to return and bring darkness into the world but has an enticing offer for Hellboy. To complicate things further, Hellboy is forced to work with Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), who shares an almost-bigoted perspective on Hellboy’s existence and an old friend, Alice (Sasha Lane), who has abilities of her own.
‘Hellboy’ becomes a swirling mess of a narrative, constantly moving back-and-forth between characters and flashbacks to establish and ground this story that is constantly moving forward.
The biggest issue that seems prevalent in this story is that it feels like it’s the second or third part of a larger franchise movie. It begins with Hellboy already on a mission before he has to move on to another one, which leads him to his battle with The Blood Queen. Along the way, he meets Alice, and there’s history there, but coming in straight into this movie, there is so much we have not yet seen or experienced for us to be truly invested in what’s going on.
Even Hellboy’s relationship with his dad, Professor Bloom, is a relationship nearing its climax and while we can all understand where it’s coming from, it’s never given the time to actually impress a mark into the audience so we can’t really feel the full force of the drama of this rising tension.
There’s a lot of interesting action sequences here -- and I expect nothing less from Neil Marshall -- and some great creature designs. It’s weird and grotesque and brutal and even a bit funny but there’s so much going on and it feels like we are right smack dab in the middle of a season of a television series that it’s hard to catch up. He has enemies who hate him for an encounter we never really got to see. He has friends whose backstories we are not privy to but push the story forward regardless.
There’s no question that there are plans for this to be a franchise film and you can see it with the two end credit scenes in the film, which further makes me feel like this could have been just a giant episode within a season of television. And it’s a shame, though, because it has all the working parts for a wonderful whole.