By: Kevin Jordan
Somebody crack a window.
Did you know there was a remake of Hellboy coming out this year? Did you even know there was an original Hellboy released back in 2004 and a sequel released in 2008? Do you think I am making up a movie that is actually titled Hellboy on purpose? Those are all legitimate questions. Personally, I would answer them no, yes, and yes (Hellboy is easily a top-five-worst movie title). Plus, who thought there was an audience for a new Hellboy when the first two movies probably only made a profit based on DVD sales? And what clown in the marketing department thought it would be funny to barely advertise the new Hellboy and open it two weeks before Avengers: Endgame? Speaking of which, Endgame was awesome and obliterated every opening weekend box office record, including accounting for 90% of all U.S. movie ticket sales for the weekend. Sadly, we’re here to talk about Hellboy, not Endgame. I’m sorry.
(Side note: So far, Hellboy has grossed a measly $21 million (on a $55 million budget), with just $350 thousand of that coming in week three.)
If movie theaters could fart, it would smell like Hellboy. I knew right from the beginning I would need to hold my nose as the movie opened with narration. And not just any narration, but a prologue about King Arthur chopping up an immortal witch, Nimue the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), putting her still-alive body parts in magic boxes that only a holy man can open, and burying the boxes in random places scattered around Britain. Cut to Hellboy (David Harbour) sneaking into a Mexican wrestling match to track down his missing partner, who disappeared while tracking down some vampires. I know that sounds insane, but the insane part is that none of the spectators blinked an eye at a demon-beast, a.k.a. Hellboy, walking into the building. Had the movie built us a world where magical creatures and humans lived together, this would have made sense, but part of that absurd Arthurian legend (he said with no sarcasm whatsoever) is that the creatures all went into hiding after the defeat of Nimue. *Massive sigh*
Upon returning home and lamenting the dying words of his partner – that the end is coming – Hellboy is summoned back to work at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense for his next mission and a talking-to from his adoptive father, Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane). This leads us to one of the worst action sequences of the year, featuring Hellboy battling multiple giants after almost being killed by a human cult that tricked him into helping them hunt giants. Confused? Who cares.
Meanwhile, a warthog-man is tracking down Nimue’s body parts in order to reconstitute her so he can get revenge on Hellboy. By this point, I was barely holding out hope that the stench of this film would dissolve into something fun to watch and we were only about a half hour into the film. Then, the warthog-man ripped the tongue out of a monk, shoved it into his own mouth, and spoke in the priest’s voice to open one of the magic boxes. Nope – I’m out. I often cut a lot of slack to fantasy films because I love the genre, but the tongue thing is too much. Even in a nonsensical world filled with gore, it is too gross and too ridiculous to swallow. The rest of the movie involves a medium (Sasha Lane) and were-tiger (Daniel Dae Kim) teaming up with Hellboy to try to prevent Nimue from being re-ummm-built(?) and destroying the world. Merlin shows up too and I officially hate this film.
One thing that may surprise you is that the original Hellboy and its sequel were generally well-regarded by critics and audiences alike. They were creative and well-produced, offering a world and characters that were well-thought out and realized by director/writer Guillermo del Toro. Ron Perlman (in the title role) was charming and funny and the rest of the cast held their own. This year’s reboot is none of those things, offering the kind of creative inspiration one gets about an hour after eating rancid chicken wings with too much hot sauce. Even if this reboot were a deliberate B-movie, the acting is beneath even that level. The cast is either taking themselves too seriously (Lane and Kim), screeching and shouting their lines at the camera (McShane and Jovovich), overdoing the camp (Thomas Haden Church – don’t ask), or all of the above (Harbour, who is decidedly not Ron Perlman). I would blame it on Director Neil Marshall, but, based on the fact that there are eight credited producers, I’m not convinced Marshall actually did anything but sit in a chair.
Hellboy is the kind of movie that should be fun to watch for nerds like me. Movies like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters or The Brothers Grimm. Instead, Hellboy was the kind of movie that is the opposite of fun to watch. Movies like Season of the Witch and Red Riding Hood. It’s the kind of movie that makes you wonder how an actual writer finished the script and didn’t immediately light himself on fire. I really wanted to enjoy another entry in a franchise that sounds terrible on paper and has an even-worse title. Instead, I’m just trying to figure out how to get the smell of it out of my jacket.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back unless you saw it the same weekend Endgame opened. Sold out Endgame screenings was the signal for you to just stay home.