There is a common defense for the new Hellboy: it is truer to the nature and style of the source material, Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comics. That argument seems to undermine how imaginative and romantic Guillermo del Toro’s idyllic 2004 fantasy-adventure, which also spawns a sequel in 2008. Fact is, the reboot by Neil Marshall is a darker R-rated rendition with more profanities, more binge-drinking and more blood-gushing moments.
David Harbour, under thick red make-up and extravagant prosthetics, is the new Hellboy; but, what he’s doing is mostly doing Ron Perlman’s Hellboy impersonation and that doesn’t matter. He would spit out corny, sardonic one-liners at times; or chug hard liquor just because; or complain about everything he encounters, just like Perlman’s. Yet, most of the times, he would be busy CGI-busting strange creatures, gouging their eyes out or slashing their bodies into half; things that Perlman could’ve never done before even when he portrays the fiercest incarnation of the titular character.
Marshall knows pretty well how to stage some harrowing deaths, which apparently is Hellboy’s new selling commodities. Combining his experience in handling horror cults, Dog Soldier and the cave-terror, The Descent¸ with another experience of presenting some of Game of Thrones’ grand spectacles, Marshall finds the formula to spice up the R-rated gore-vaganza. Yet, most of the actions, while enticing, are pretty procedural and felt like some mere gimmicks. (In Indonesian release, the censorship butchers down most of the gore-fest and any extremely graphic images like almost 80% of all; but that doesn’t matter anymore if you’re looking into the bigger picture and see how irrelevant those botched scenes are).
The grim, dreamlike world-building of Hellboy is translated into the reboot as a darker and a more grotesque version. That same rule goes for the creatures, which appears filthy, blood-thirsty and malicious, instead of magical. As instructed by his adopted father, Professor Broom (Ian McShane), Harbour’s Hellboy will embark on a globe-trotting quest to stop Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), whose existence dates back from the era of King Arthur (yes, he exists in this universe as well.) During his voyage, the fiery half-demon is accompanied by Alice (Sasha Lane), a psychic who can spit out spirit’s ooze, and Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), a soldier that can transform into a humanoid jaguar. In every post of his voyage, Hellboy is busy learning the backstory of something, including himself; it goes around until the final battle.
The characters, the creatures, the myths, the world-building, and everything aren’t as enticing as Hellboy itself. Even, the movie fails to recognize the potential conflict involving Hellboy’s love-hate relationship with his father, which could have given this movie a sense of direction. The result is an edgy mess, which only achieve its goal to become truer to the nature and style of the source materials. At this point, you can picture Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man which presents a truer-to-the-comic-book Spider-Man compared to Sam Raimi’s; but, failed to craft a more meaningful narrative. Same goes with Neil Marshall’s Hellboy; it’s truer to the source, but compared to Guillermo del Toro’s version, it isn’t a better movie.
Action, Adaptation, Adventure, Fantasy Directed by: Neil Marshall Written by: Andrew Cosby based on the graphic novel by Mike Mignola Starred by: David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim Runtime: 120 mins