Hellboy (2019) Review

Rating: 2 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.


Boy, the plot of this new Hellboy is rather complicated. It’s certainly more complicated than it needs to be in order to tell its central story, and I can’t decide if that’s a plus or a negative. I tend to like stories with oodles of plot, because things move quickly and don’t feel like they’re being dragged on unnecessarily, but that’s more for longer, serialized stories like TV shows and comics. Even a long movie is still relatively short, compared to other mediums, and too much plot can make it feel unfocused and meandering, without a strong central theme.

This one is kind of a mishmash of the plots from the first two films. We start with the B.R.P.D. already established, with Hellboy as one of its top agents, but we also have him discover his origin story (portrayed similarly to the first film, but much briefer, and with a lot more Lobster Johnson). Also as in the first film, the villain wants Hellboy to embrace his “destiny” as the bringer of the apocalypse, but like the second film, Golden Army, the villain also resents that non-human sentient beings live underground and in the shadows, and wants to take over the world to bring them all into the light.

On top of all that, there is the Osiris Club, who wants to kill Hellboy before he brings on the end of days, and there’s this pig monster, who wants revenge on Hellboy for outing him as a changeling who replaced a baby like 20 years ago, and said baby is now all grown and works as a medium and starts tagging along for the entire movie for no sensible reason, and then there’s Baba Yaga, who has some connection to what’s going on I guess although trying to remember it now it’s escaping me, and there’s MI-11 (the British version of the B.R.P.D.) and its agent Ben Daimio, who doesn’t trust Hellboy at first and who—bonus!—is a were-jaguar, and meanwhile the Lady of Lake aka Nimue the Blood Queen is trying to bring about the extinction of man so monsters can live free, and I think she wants to marry Hellboy because he can open a portal to Hell (though what does that have to do with the Earth-based monsters living free?), but yet only Hellboy can stop her because he’s—get this—the sole living descendent of King Arthur, and is therefore able to wield Excalibur, which we learn from Merlin, who we’re told is undying except he then instantly dies, and so at first Hellboy refuses to take Excalibur, because for some reason holding it turns him into a full-on demon and he loses his personality, but then the ghost of his foster dad yells at him for a while, and he snaps out of it and uses Excalibur to cut off Nimue’s head and kick her into an open Hellmouth.

And there are not one, not two, but three epilogues hinting at future movies that, well, probably will never happen.

Best Parts:

David Harbour is good casting for Hellboy. I like Milla Jovavich in general, though this dumb character feels like a sad place for her career to have ended up, considering how bright her star was shining like 20 years ago.

There are some inventive bits here and there, like the armor the giants wear being made of found objects like car doors and the like. Though there are many scenes of exposition, the film doesn’t feel a need to justify itself, if that makes sense. It’s a lived-in supernatural world, where someone can say “I have a shotgun full of angel bones” and nobody blinks.

I was never bored, and never felt like I was going to fall asleep.

Worst Parts:

Hellboy is constantly gross. I don’t know that I have a weak stomach, but there were many scenes that were just gross for grossness’s sake, and sometimes I had to look away, simply because I needed a break from it. I don’t know that I needed to see someone’s face pulled off, or Baba Yaga’s slobbering kiss, or the icky prolapsed ghost people who come out of the medium’s throat, or like a five-minute montage of giant demons walking around impaling people and tearing them in half and pulling more faces off and on and on and on. Even the revised Hellboy design looks kind of gross. Like wow, you’re R-rated, good for you, and this is what you choose to do with it?

You know you’re in trouble with an R-rated movie when the very beginning has a voice over explaining (paraphrasing), “They were called the Dark Ages because they were f***ing dark.” Oh damn! So edgy, bro!

This movie continues the tradition of the earlier films by portraying Hellboy as an immature manchild, completely ignoring that they definitively place his birth as being around the end of World War II, meaning the dude is more than 70 years old. You’d think he’d be over this surly teenager attitude by now. It comes off more pathetic than rebellious.

Why didn’t the Osiris Club wait until after they killed the (apparently very real) giants to ambush Hellboy? And how did these screaming, feral giants sneak up on them?

Once they know Nimue’s location, why are Hellboy, the medium girl, and Ben Daimio literally the only three people they send to deal with it? They have a whole B.R.P.D. and a whole MI-11, both full of trained soldiers and operatives. The medium has literally no combat skills or experience (though this changes in the first epilogue, where apparently after six months, the medium is now effortlessly killing rooms full of dudes like she’s John Wick).

Why is the Blood Queen, whose entire reason for being is to allow “monsters” to emerge from the shadows and live free on Earth, portrayed as an attractive human woman?

The big turning point at the end, where Hellboy renounces his demonic origin and refuses to destroy the world, is caused by his foster dad coming back as a ghost to yell at him to “be a man” and “grow a pair”. Like, is that what Hellboy was missing in his character? Not masculine enough? Really? As far as “inspirational father figure speeches” go, it’s bottom of the barrel.

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