I’ve been looking forward to a new Hellboy since I first heard about it. I was a humongous fan of the original two Hellboys (and also director Guillermo del Toro) and even though he wasn’t directing this latest reboot, it looked like it was going to be awesome. Then something happened and it turned out horrible? At the time of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes has Hellboy 2019 at 15% and I think it deserves better. So now that I’ve seen what all the fuss (and the hate) was about, I have to ask: what happened here?
Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.
So there were some differences between this new Hellboy and the ones that came before it. The most obvious, of course, was David Harbour taking over for Ron Perlman. Fair enough. I really liked David Harbour – he was excellent in the role. But more importantly this new Hellboy had a very different tone. It was less playful. There was no real love interest and no romantic jealousy (spoilers for the 2004 Hellboy) and no cutsey bickering with a Jeffrey Tambor character. In this 2019 iteration, everything is deadly serious. Sure Hellboy makes a few smartass remarks, but only in between action beats. I didn’t miss these things as much as you might expect – there’s lots of entertaining things to be seen and there’s enough lovely details to make it feel like this movie is only a small part of a much larger mythos.
Where this new Hellboy really shone was in its visuals. I really liked the action sequences. We got a sense of what a formidable fighter Hellboy is. And there was so much gore and viscera, just so much. It was gratuitous (but I’m counting that as a good thing here, for those of you keeping score). The character design was top notch. For example, Baba Yaga, whose house was shown in the trailers, was just incredible. My god, what a set piece and that wasn’t the only one. The whole movie was absolutely gorgeous, there was just so much to see. Including Daniel Dae Kim, thank you for your Fan Service.
So what was wrong with Hellboy, then? Not much in my books. Cards on the table, I had already decided I loved this movie by the time the trailer was over. Though I’ve been wrong before (looking at you, Huntsman: Winter’s War), But there were some flaws. One thing was how fast it was cut. Sure it was exciting, and made 2 hours feel like a lot less, but it was also exhausting. And there was no time for looking at a character’s emotional state. There were times when Hellboy was remarkably chill and others when he freaked out without really having much justification for doing so. I’m sure that was the same for other characters; we weren’t left with much examination of what they were thinking or feeling. It’s fine to reduce this (it was, after all, a fantasy action film) but you can’t do away with it altogether.
So was Hellboy 2019 worth watching? Yes, definitely. Hell yes. I’m going to see it again, probably in the theatres. Again, granted, I’m exactly the kind of person this film was made for. I’m a fan. But it was well made and I can’t wait for the sequel. Hopefully there will be one.
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