OMG, another remake?? Seriously? Apparently graphic novelist Mike Mignola, who created Hellboy, wanted a grittier, bloodier, R-rated version of his character and, since he couldn’t get director Guillermo Del Toro or actor Ron Perlman to come back, he went somewhere else. Well, like it or not, here’s a reboot of the Big Red Guy!
Remember King Arthur? I do. Well, apparently he was responsible for killing Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), who wanted to destroy the Earth way back when. But since her body was chopped up and scattered, we’ve got nothing to fear, right? Fast-forward to today and the only paranormal and evil creatures being taken out is by the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) and their top-notch agent, Hellboy (David Harbour). But while Hellboy is dispatching vampires in Tijuana (nobody really takes notice of a large red half-demon walking around), trouble is brewing. Some weird witch summons a giant talking wart hog (Stephen Graham voiced) called Gruagach to find Nimue’s missing pieces so she can be sewed back together and rule again. Bwahahaha!
Meanwhile, Hellboy’s adoptive father, (Ian McShane) has his big red son travel to England to find out more on Nimue, but he’s set upon by members of the prestigious Osiris Club, home of clairvoyant Lady Hatton (Sophie Okonedo). There, in a flash-back scene, Hellboy learns about his birth & past Nazi heritage.. not a good thing as Nimue wants him to join her as her secret weapon to bring about the Apocalypse, and this hidden bit of info sways the big guy. Pretty soon, Hellboy is joined by lovely young psychic Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio, a no-nonsense M-11 British agent (Daniel Dae Kim) to join in the hunt for Nimue who, sooner than they’d like, regains all her body parts, and then the mayhem begins!
And when I say mayhem, I mean exactly that! Blood, guts, gore, dismemberment, decapitations (lots of that!), F-bombs, and some of the most gruesome deaths this side of a Saw movie. I’m guessing director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday) thought, “What this reboot needs is blood! Barrels and barrels of BLOOD!” It’s horrific, violent, ghastly, and sometimes stomach-churning at all the creative ways Marshall invents how a human body can be ripped apart. Disgusting. Seeing this movie makes you appreciate the other two Hellboy movies all the more.
But that’s nothing compared to the scattershot script by newbie Andrew Cosby (only TV series like Eureka and Haunted), which is rushed, clumsy, and feels like several episodic shows chopped up and spliced together. Scenes set up, then go nowhere, the dialogue is the stuff written by fan-fiction tweens, and the plot jumps all over the map and goes nowhere fast. Even Hellboy doesn’t know if he’s supposed to be really smart one minute or a sarcastic kid the next. Hey, pick one and stick with it! The other two-dimensional cardboard characters are just as bad, with the exception of McShane, who at least tries to bring some gravitas to Hellboy’s dear ol’ dad. There’s hardly any humor, no fun, and zero chemistry.
Then there’s David Harbour as Hellboy. I’m talkin’ to all Baby Boomers out there: remember when they replaced Dick York with Dick Sargent for Darrin on the Bewitched TV series? Everyone went nuts, calling it big mistake but, bless his heart, Sargent did his best and did a pretty good job. Well, that’s the case here. Harbour plays a decent enough Hellboy and is a fine replacement for Ron Perlman, but it’s this lousy movie he’s surrounded with that’s his downfall. Clearly Harbour needed a better director and screenplay to make his mark accepted. God help us, they hint at a sequel. Let’s hope it’s by a better production team!
Based on the popular graphic novel by Mike Mignola, this fantasy/thriller/action-adventure gave us the craziest anti-hero ever seen: a 6’5, 300lb bright red half-human/half-demon with shaved-down horns that prefers the company of cats and devours Baby Ruth candy bars. And being played by Ron Perlman was brilliant casting.
We start off in WW2 and a Nazi occult experiment going on off the coast of Scotland. With the help of Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), his love Ilsa von Haupstein (Bridget Hodson), and faceless, wind-up super-villain Karl Kronen (Ladislav Beran), they open a space portal to summon a monster to defeat the Allies. Fortunately, the U.S. Army gets the drop on them and foils their plans, but not before an infant red demon (with an indestructible right hand of stone) comes through the portal. A young professor Trevor Bruttenholm decides to takes little “Hellboy” away with him to raise him for good, not evil.
Fast-forward 60 years and full-grown Hellboy is now part of the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) along with a psychic fish-man named Abe Sapien (Doug Jones in a full body suit, but David Hyde Pierce voicing). Their third member, fire-starter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), is currently in a mental institution for observation as her fire-powers can go off without control. Anyway, checking into the BPRD as Hellboy’s new caretaker is John Myers (Rupert Evans), an FBI newbie upstart who clearly is out of his element here with all the weirdness. He meets old Prof. Bruttenholm (John Hurt) and the BPRD’s director, Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), who is trying his best NOT to blow a gasket.
Meanwhile, there’s trouble afoot as a resurrected Rasputin and his cronies have conjured up a batch of creatures called the Sammael that can not only regenerate, but are laying eggs everywhere! Rasputin’s endgame? Bring about the Apocalypse! After Hellboy, Abe, and several FBI agents go down the sewer to destroy the Sammael are nearly killed, the decision is made to spring Liz from the hospital. . .even though she still might be a threat. Oh, and did I mention that she and Hellboy used to be an item? Well, pretty soon a love triangle pops up with Myers looking after Liz as well as Big Red, but that’ll have to wait as Rasputin kills Bruttenholm, sending Hellboy into a rage.
Their next stop is a creepy Russian cemetery and Rasputin’s ancient mausoleum where, thanks to a talking corpse, the team finds Rasputin and his flunkies. But things don’t go well, and Hellboy almost gives into his dark side, bringing about the end times. As a first entry into the series, this movie was fun, unusual, but not a blockbuster. Writers Peter Briggs (his one & only screenplay) and director Guillermo DelToro adapted the graphic novel to the screen almost verbatim, which lost something in the translation. The action was all there, true, but the alternate stories of Liz & John (who was made up to move the plot along), didn’t help in the overall scope.
Still, what really drove the film was Perlman’s depiction of Hellboy. Wise-cracking, cigar-chomping, and given to hilarious outbursts of anger (“Oh, crap!”), he WAS the movie! He could even show different emotional levels, given the pounds of make-up, especially when he expressed his love for Liz. Doug Jones is to be lauded as well for his unique body language; something he reprised in last years The Shape Of Water as almost the same water-creature. A cousin perhaps?
Doing the impossible, this movie spawned a sequel (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army) that was not only better than the original, but was a box office bonanza! It also left people wanting a third installment! Guillermo and Perlman wanted to do a third film, but after years of talks, script ideas, and everyone getting involved in other films, it never happened. Perlman, loving his character, even went in full Hellboy costume to visit sick children in hospitals; that’s how much he loved the big red guy!