Hellboy is Dark Horse Comic’s half-demon hero, often referred to as the world’s greatest paranormal investigator. He’s humanity’s great weapon against things that go bump in the night, and he also may be the harbinger of the apocalypse. This movie marks a complete reboot of the character in film.
Con – This story? Hellboy has existed as a comic book character for over twenty-six years. With that rich history, it is mind-boggling that the story the filmmakers would choose to tell is yet another derivative Arthurian legend. Worse, it’s uncannily similar and more poorly executed than this past winter’s The Boy Who Would Be King. It all felt rather lazy. The acting isn’t bad, with David Harbour’s Hellboy character being an enjoyable take on the big red hero, but Harbor, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, and the rest just aren’t given much to work with. Besides being just derivative story, the dialogue and details just aren’t very good. Put it all together, and it feels very “same-y” yet inferior to movies we’ve seen too many times before.
Neutral – CGI… Uggghhh: A film starring a large, red, half-demon who battles paranormal creatures is bound to have some CGI, but this film has a lot. If you don’t mind that, this is an attractive movie. It has some neat locations, the costuming is nice, and the effects are impressive, if not a bit gross throughout. If too much CGI takes you out of the experience though, it’s going to be an issue. Of particular offense is a man pig (think Beebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) who is in the whole film. I’ve soured quite a bit on CGI versus practical effects, but I will give credit to the scene involving three hill giants that did look pretty great.
Con – Not good “bad”: The biggest complaint that can be leveled at Hellboy is that it’s just not that fun. There was a hope that if it wasn’t going to be a good movie, at least it could be a good “bad” movie. There is certainly an entertainment value to films that embrace their “campy” nature. Hellboy sort of does this with its massive fantasy creatures, over-the-top gore, and nonchalant irreverence. And yet, it takes itself just a bit too seriously, meaning it leaves out the key ingredient to a good “bad” movie… namely fun. Instead, Hellboy resides in a weird limbo where it’s too goofy to be exciting, but too serious to be silly fun. With excessive gore and cursing, it certainly earns its “R” rating, but again, it just sort of straddles an awkward middle ground.
Instead of a ridiculous but fun romp with a cigar smoking, red, half-demon hero, Hellboy just feels like a punishment to be endured. It’s unfortunately akin to two hours in cinematic purgatory. On the bright side, there are a ton of great movies showing at the Palms Theatre right now, so head down and check one of them out, even if you take my advice and give Hellboy a pass.