Rebirth of the Demon (Hellboy, 2019)

Hellboy_2019_PosterFor a time it appeared as if 2008’s Hellboy and the Golden Army was the last time we were going to see Hellboy on the big screen. But then, a few years ago, new talk of a third Hellboy film emerged.  Guillermo Del Toro and Perlman both had expressed plenty of interest.  But then something happened.  Creator and owner of Hellboy, Mike Mignola and Del Toro could not come to a unified vision and Mignola brought his character to a new creative team.

Rather than continue the story began with the Del Toro films, Mignola, Director Neil Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby start fresh.  Hellboy is tasked with fighting the all powerful Blood Queen to save the world.  Dismembered by King Arthur, an evil creature who seeks revenge on Hellboy starts to piece her back together. Once she regains all her power, she will be able to unleash monsters upon the world that will bring about the end of humanity.

But Hellboy is the key to her goals, so not only is Hellboy having to fight the bad guys, the good guys largely do not trust him and some are actively out to kill him. Hellboy also struggles with his relationship to his earthly father Professor Broom and their goals.  If their purpose with the B.P.R.D. (Bureau Paranormal Research Defense) is killing monsters, why did he save Hellboy at all?

It is hard not to compare this with the two prior films.  All three had good casts. Harbour is pretty good in the role. Ian McShane is a very differy Professor Broom.  He offers similar sentiments about Hellboy’s potential, but he is a far gruffer father figure as opposed to John Hurt’s kindly old man.

Sasha Lane is an interesting addition as Alice Monaghan, a psychic and medium with a long friendship and connection to Hellboy.  His main conflict within the team is Ben Daimio.  A military man who hides a big secret and has no trust for Hellboy, Daniel Dae Kim manages to avoid the cliche of the guy with a big secret not get annoying. It is hard not to miss Abe Sapien in the film, as he was such an integral character in the previous films.

Milla Jovovich is, honestly, playing a pretty stock evil character, but it works in the context of the story. I appreciate that the film continues to use the creatures of myth, such as faeries and bizarre ancient looking gods.

I think the new Hellboy design largely works and does not feel like they are just trying to imitate the Del Toro looks.  And yet…

Well, the film treads some similar territory as the first. We are getting a new beginning… but the plot is hinged on Hellboy possibly bringing about the end of the world and his temptations to do so. We get some of the same visuals we have seen in the previous films, with no real fresh approach.  Growing horns, flaming crown…but the story just never feels like it finds it’s footing as a new and exciting role.  I never felt a real rush of excitement or engagement- in spite of liking the characters.

While some of it works, there is also a lot of really dodgy CGI that is, at best, about as good the stuff we saw in the previous two films over ten years ago.

Finally…the film is ridiculously more gory than is necessary.  It is full of digital blood and absurd levels of violent gore.  Where as the Del Toro films delighted in the monsters and fantasy, this film seems to find its joy in simply being gory. I guess this should not surprise us, as the filmmakers did talk about the freedom of an R-Rating…and just a few days before the film’s release the studio released a trailer all about how the film is an awesome orgy of violence and language…full of grossness and gore…and the swears.

I actually hate having to say that this film is a real disappointment.  While I was disappointed when the work with a third Del Toro film fell apart, I still hoped the new team would create a memorable and fun film. It has a great cast, some fun ideas.  And with a better story?  We could have gotten something great…both fresh and familiar…and it just is not.

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