Hellboy, a demon who fights for humans, begins to question his place in the battle between good and evil, while evil forces are attempting to resurrect an ancient sorceress…
After two good Hellboy films, starring Ron Perlman in the role and directed by Guillermo del Toro, there was talk for a good while about there being a third film to complete a trilogy. However, for whatever reason, the producers decided rather than make that third film, instead they would reboot the series. Naturally, the decision surprised and disappointed many.
Things then went from disappointing to a public relations disaster when it was announced that the Japanese-American character, Major Ben Daimio was to be played by Ed Skerin, a white actor. After uproar, a week later, Skerin pulled out of the role, which was recast with actor Daniel Dae Kim.
Things didn’t seem to go well still as, when the the film was due to the release, there seemed to be a lack of publicity for the film. Aside from the trailers there was little else to push the film. Stories began to emerge of clashes during the production between the director, the producers (who had final cut on the film apparently) and with the cast too. How much truth or rumour is involved, really only those involved would know the answer to that.
But with all this alleged behind the scenes rowing, what of the film itself? Sometimes a film can somehow come out of turmoil, but in most cases, the resulting film can be a mess.
And the new Hellboy definitely falls into the second category. It’s a mess of a film. The question to be asked next though, is it an entertaining one?
Neil Marshall directs the new film and he is one of my favourite directors. With Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday and Centurion, as well as some outstanding TV work on the likes of Game Of Thrones. I’m not sure how anyone else felt, but I thought he was a good choice. But after seeing the film, while I don’t doubt Marshall’s ability as a director, this film is by far his weakest film yet. Because of stories of behind the scenes issues, how much of the mess the film turned out can be attributed to him, but he is capable of much better than this.
The script is credited to Andrew Cosby. Again, because of stories of behind the scenes issues, how much of the finished script is his may be open to question, but wither it is all down to him, or to others, the story has major issues. The plot takes turns that are puzzling, an encounter with Baba Yaga, one of the better sequences in the film, doesn’t add a thing to the story, a character we see near the beginning turns up later for a brief moment, a character suddenly seems to develop an ability that, it appears, she never knew she had up until then.
The film has a feel of one where the crew never really finished the film and then others stepped in to put a finished version together. The CGI, especially in the final act, was pretty disappointing I felt. The film does try and be a more bloody violent film, but again there is too much CGI used for the effect.
What the film does get right is David Harbour (of Stranger Things) as Hellboy. Ron Perlman was superb casting in the del Toro films and Harbour, in this version, is very good indeed. The rest of the cast are less successful. Milla Jovovich plays the sorceress, Nimue, The Blood Queen and is wasted in the role. Sasha Lane plays Alice a young girl who helps Hellboy, but it’s a weak performance. Daniel Dae Kim Daimio isn’t much better sadly, while Ian McShane seems on autopilot as Professor Broom. Sophie Okonedo and Thomas Haden Church have little more than cameo roles and do what they can.
The score for the film by Benjamin Wallfisch is okay, though the film does use a lot of 80’s rock music which I did like. The film is well shot and designed too.
As I said, there is a lot wrong with the film. And yet…
For all the issues I had with it and perhaps because of the stories of behind the scenes issues, I actually enjoyed it. It’s never a dull film certainly, though I think that’s because the makers are worried if the audience used their brains it would make no sense. It could be that the talk of behind the scenes meant I went in with low expectations and the film simply exceeded them. But either way, I did enjoy it.
In many ways, it reminded me of the reaction to the Tom Cruise starring version of The Mummy, that was to kick-start the so-called ‘Dark Universe’ (only to promptly halt it!) or the film version of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Both of those films had issues, (League behind the scenes especially) and while I wasn’t a fan of The Mummy, I did enjoy the League film. For me, Hellboy is certainly closer to the latter of these films. It’s far from the best comic-book based film, but certainly not the worst.
It may be a mess. It may be nonsense. But I can’t deny, I found it an entertaining mess.
Rating: *** out of 5