‘Hellboy’ is made with the best of intentions and with love for the original comic book source material. The movie should find an approving audience but it never rises above being diverting fun at best.
In this third film adaptation and reboot, David Harbour steps into the role that fitted the swagger of previous Hellboy Ron Perlman like a glove. David does well conveying the anguish of the central character who has a lot on his mind. A monster originally brought forth to end the world, he instead was raised by a good man to fight and kill his fellow monsters in protection of humanity who spurn him.
There is an adolescent streak in Hellboy, too, that the 44-year-old actor expresses really well. Ian McShane as his “father” Trevor Bruttenholm is great too; he literally has a smile on his face in every scene no matter how serious, delighting in the trappings of the genre. The relationship between father and son give the film heart but slowly the movie builds up a team around him (Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim) that should be fun to hang out with should a sequel transpire. Milla Jovovich as villain Nimue the Blood Queen gives a dependable performance but never really leaves a mark.
Set primarily in England, the picture enjoys the gothic trappings of that landscape and director Neil Marshall keeps things suitably dark with not too many splashes of colour. There is humour throughout but seldom lines that will prove endlessly quotable. After a while we realise we’re moving from one set piece to another without much to keep us engaged. Now they’re fighting on a hill, now they’re getting exposition in a cave, now they’re fighting in a Church and the action itself proves for the most part repetitive and uninspired. A few body slams and punches with the fights being close quarter pistol shooting of enemies magically waiting their turn off camera to get dropped, and CGI fests that have no stakes. Yet some do stand out, a battle with three giants early on is truly inspired in both choreography and framing to give a great sense of scale and excitement.
A rampage of monsters later on involves nobody on screen we care about but shows inventiveness from the filmmakers in terms of creature design and how to make use of the R-rating to show gruesome deaths. There are some gross deaths throughout, and some crazy ideas including an old crone in a house with chicken legs that is suitably unnerving.
‘Hellboy’ does deliver for fans of the comics and maybe the genre in general, it is funny but rarely laugh-out-loud, horrific but never breathlessly scary and with characters likeable but never involving. It proves fun enough and suggests a sequel could be even more fun.