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Hellboy Review

Is it purely coincidence that Del Toro projects send an “every executive for himself” signal? My history with Hellboy is probably not as rich as it should be, the character and stories are right up my street. It screams rock and roll vibes with action that could follow suit, and that’s what I was looking for in this film. While I can say the film lives up to its 15 rating (R rating in the US) by dialling the gore, action and profanity up to 11, the film does this for the weak reason of being gory, action and foul language filled acting as a plaster that covers up the deep wounds the film inflicts on itself, and unlike our titular character, they won’t heal fast.

The first thing that should come apparent when you see Hellboy is that the gore is on the cartoonish level of possibility. The amount of bloodshed in this film is something that this film wants to be remembered for and you will certainly remember it. Every gory death you’ve seen happen in cartoons or animations, even the one that would be near physically impossible are all possible in the world of the film. This is just one layer on the film spectacle which in terms of a visual style is getting there. With what was offered to Del Toro back in 2004 and 2008 it was ridiculous, but his style made the ridiculous work, here in this reboot, it showed promise but wasn’t quite right, like that sinking feeling you get when something is missing.

On the back of the success of Stranger Things, David Harbour takes on the role and at the time, this felt like the perfect casting choice. Now after seeing this film I’ve got to commend him for at least working with what he had to make his performance decent. At least he makes the character likeable with the strong sense of humour that has been given a bit of an update. The one thing I will say is that David Harbour is in the role whilst Ron Perlman was in the role and having fun with it, again making the ridiculous work. David Harbour can’t pull it off as well, but credit where credit is due, he is the strongest part of the film.

That’s the heaven of Hellboy, let’s now journey into the underworld. If the recent rumours are true, then Hellboy is another film in a long list of film that felt the curse of studio intervention. That should tell you everything right there, and usually, I’d be more sympathetic towards the film, I know there would be the possibility of creative differences clashing, a hostile set, the whole shebang. But, look at the team behind Hellboy, director Neil Marshall hasn’t made a feature film in over 9 years, yes he’s worked on big TV shows since Centurion back in 2010, but an episodic TV series and feature-length film are two different beasts. This is a man who isn’t someone who’s made a successful indie film then given a big franchise, this man has knowledge of feature film but hadn’t used it for some time, is it any wonder studios would want to get their hands on Hellboy?

I then ask myself, if there was no studio intervention, would it have made a difference? The narrative is simple, but the story makes it so crazy to follow and on top of that, it is horribly cliched. The amount of dialogue about “your destiny” is insufferable and incredibly cheesy. When I watch a film I try to become someone who is being introduced to a particular franchise of film for the first time, I don’t think its fair on the audience if the film required them to become a practical expert in the character, this is what Hellboy feels like.

Talking of rough proceedings, I have to bring up Hellboy’s rough editing. Hellboy’s story has lots of different characters, lots of different locations, and going from one place to another in Hellboy is lazy, where is the journey to those different places? are we led to believe that characters are able to go from one place to another with ease, Hellboy has a pretty big target on his back you’d think there would be demons sent by The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) to stop him. Also, you know the action scenes are in trouble when the film desperately wants to cut to every angle possible, by wanting to show us more you’re actually showing us less. Granted there is an action scene involving Hellboy and three giants that is a long take shot, but the other actions scenes don’t follow the same pacing.

I’m just saddened that a film that could have benefited from a 15 rating has stooped to where it has. If you’re a gore person then maybe you can find enjoyment, but for people who want something more, it leaves us with empty plates. As much as David Harbor tries his best, he can’t live up to Ron Perlman’s portrayal, but I’m sure with more polished material he could easily do it. It wants to be rock and roll, it wants to be badass in nature, but it tries too hard. There no other place this film can exist but the depths of hell.

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Sean McConville
My name is Sean McConville, I am passionate individual with 5 years of film studies and film making experience behind me and a lifelong interest in the art of film.