REVIEW: ‘Hellboy’ is a Poor Adaptation and a Poorer Use of All The Talent

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Hellboy is one of my favorite comic book characters of all time, so when a new film was announced starring David Harbour and directed by Neil Marshall, I was over the moon. I loved the Guillermo Del Toro directed films but I was very intrigued to see a new take on the material with a director and actor I loved. However, those hopes were quickly dashed as the new Hellboy is overstuffed, poorly written, and does a disservice to both cast and crew.

Hellboy opens in the Dark Ages, where the evil witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich) is cut into pieces by King Arthur, halting the dark plague she has spread across the land. In the present day, Hellboy (Habour) is tasked by his adoptive father, Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (Ian McShane,) to help the Osiris Club, a group of giant hunters. Things go south and H.B. is soon racing across the globe to stop Nimue’s resurrection, aided by Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), a young medium he rescued earlier in his career, and Major Ben Damio (Daniel Dae Kim), a no-nonsense M11 agent who can transform into a were-jaguar. Along the way, Hellboy struggles with his demonic nature and the fact that he is destined to bring about the End of Days.

Sounds exciting, right? On paper, yes, but Andrew Cosby’s script has too much going on, stuffing two movies’ worth of material into a two-hour runtime. Events blitz by, leaving little weight or consequences. Hellboy fights a vampire, then fights giants, then fights a changeling, all within the span of twenty minutes.

It feels like creator Mike Mignola, who also served as executive producer and worked on the script, wanted to do “Hellboy‘s Greatest Hits” instead of adapting one storyline. The dialogue is also less than stellar. Nimue issues the boilerplate apocalyptic threats, while Hellboy either cracks lame jokes or lobs juvenile insults at everyone he meets.

The film’s tendency to overcompensate also extends to its rating. Unlike the previous films, this incarnation of Hellboy comes saddled with an R-rating, and Marshall makes the most of it. People are ripped in half. Heads are blown off. Eyes are punctured, heads severed and it gets boring within the first fifteen minutes.

The same goes for the language; Broom, narrating the opening flashback, refers to the Dark Ages as “a f***ing nightmare” and I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. It’s one thing to market your film to teenage boys, it’s another to make a film that feels like teenage boys were behind the camera. Even worse, all the blood and bad language don’t even fit the character. While the Hellboy comics tackle fairly dark source material, they never took it that far.

The cast, to their credit, does the best with what they’re given. Harbour, best known for playing everyman Jim Hopper on Stranger Things, tries to infuse Hellboy with a frat boy’s swagger. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Jovovich chews the scenery with abandon, while McShane clearly phones in his performance.

Kim and Lane are the standouts here, especially Lane, who threatens to commit grand larceny with the number of scenes she steals. Sadly, Thomas Haden Church is underused as Nazi hunter Lobster Johnson and the last minute cameo of a fan-favorite character feels tacked on, rather than organic.

Overall, Hellboy is a poor adaptation, but most importantly it is a poor use of all the talents involved. As a Hellboy fan, I’m utterly disappointed.

Hellboy is playing nationwide in select theaters.

  • 4/10
    Rating - 4/10


Overall, Hellboy is a poor adaptation, but most importantly it is a poor use of all the talents involved. As a Hellboy fan, I’m utterly disappointed.

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