Published on April 10th, 2019 | by Michael Newman0
Trivia question for you…what does an immortal evil queen, King Arthur, Nazis and a boy born from Hell itself have in common? If you answered Hellboy you win a prize. The prize is going to the theater and watching the film and whether it’s a prize worth winning is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself though, so let’s rewind a bit and start at the beginning.
Hellboy (David Harbour) is a demon from Hell (hence the name), his backstory as we learn early on in the movie is pretty standard fare. The Nazi’s are on the verge of losing World War II and in a desperate move to turn the tide call upon the evil sorcerer Rasputin to call upon the depths of Hell and raise a champion who will fight for them. The incantation is interrupted when famous Nazi hunter Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church) goes in with guns blazing, as other allied troops join the fray. Their relief at stopping the incantation is short-lived as the alter opens and a young demon climbs through. Professor Broom who had infiltrated the Nazi team had been brought in to put down any evil that was successfully summoned. Upon seeing the young demon, Professor Broom (for reasons known only to him at the time) decides not to kill him, but to take him in and raise him as his own.
Flash forward to present day, and Hellboy as we now know him alongside his father are members of the B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense). On a mission to defeat some giants that are roaming the countryside in England they stumble upon an ancient evil that dark forces are trying to retrieve. It seems back in the dark ages a war between humans and monsters was being waged. Seeing no end to the violence King Arthur (Mark Stanley) and his faithful wizard Merlin (Brian Gleeson) offer to surrender to The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich). On top the hill where the surrender is to take place, the Blood Queen is betrayed by one of her own and King Arthur, using the infamous blade Excalibur, cut the Blood Queen into several parts. While she can’t be killed, she can be contained and each of her body parts are placed in separate boxes. These boxes are then sealed with holy water that only a holy man can unlock and are sent to the farthest corners of England. If the Blood Queen ever returns, she will release a plague that will not only destroy England but spread across the entire world. Thus, sets the stage for Hellboy.
Being a fan of the previous movies and in particular the portrayal of Hellboy by Ron Pearlman, I wasn’t sure how to feel about David Harbour in this role. It’s always a bit hit or miss when a series is rebooted, and I was pleasantly surprised with how David Harbour stepped up and into the role. While he doesn’t have the same menacing size and gruffness that Ron Pearlman possesses, it didn’t take me long to adjust to this new version. He is joined by a strong supporting cast consisting of Sasha Lane as his ghost whispering friend Alice and Ben Daimo as an MI-11 agent weary of teaming up with a monster. Milla Jovovich does an outstanding job as the Blood Queen and her fairy-pig friend portrayed by Stephen Graham and Douglas Tait.
Visually the movie is stunning, with the numerous monsters and fairy creatures coming to life before your eyes. The movie is exceptionally gory as one might expect, with numerous limb dismemberments, decapitations, and more blood than anyone would expect to erupt from such wounds. It’s over-the-top and meant to be that way which tended to bring some uncomfortable laughter at times from those around me. Having recently played Mortal Kombat 11, I couldn’t help but feel that some of the fatality screens in that game would have felt right at home in this movie.
Story is where I feel Hellboy falls a bit flat. There are so many characters and side stories going on that it’s easy to get lost in it. From my description above, you can see that it includes King Arthur, Rasputin, Nazis, Secret Societies, Witches that eat children, monsters…and that’s only in the first half of the movie. There is a ton going on and there are a lot of disconnects. While trying to avoid spoilers, there is a part in the film where Hellboy is talking to Baba Yaga (see another character reference), and after tricking her she places a curse on him. I’m still trying to figure out if the curse she placed on him occurred in the movie or not. In fact, I’m trying to figure out exactly what the point of that scene was. It’s not a bad story, but it tries to pack in a TON of references in its brief hour and forty five-ish minutes.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never read any of the Hellboy graphic novels, I have seen both of the previous films, so I had a little bit of background going into this movie. I don’t know if all the references in the movie are pivotal to the novels or not. You certainly don’t have to have read them or seen the previous movies to appreciate this one, I just wonder if they tried to fit in too many Hellboy references into one film. Hellboy is an enjoyable ride, and it certainly doesn’t drag at all, in fact I was surprised at how quickly it was over. With all that being said, it’s a fun action-packed movie, with lots of gratuitous violence if that’s your thing. I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking your children to see it, violence aside, I just think there is way too much going on and it can be difficult to follow. Oh, and don’t forget to stay through the credits for the end credit scene. It’s not pivotal to the movie, but worth waiting around for.
3 out of 5 stars