Hellboy (2019)

*. This is awkward. After Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army things had been left open for a final film to conclude a projected trilogy. That never happened, for various reasons. So instead, over a decade later, the franchise (such as it was) had to be rebooted entirely. Technically this film should be considered a prequel, since the events it describes take place before those of del Toro’s movies. But really it sets up an entirely new universe.
*. In the intervening decade Marvel had swallowed up the film business. So with this relaunch of Hellboy they were basically going for a piece of the same, very large market. When it was poorly received David Harbour (who plays Hellboy) complained that it was being unfairly judged as a Marvel movie. He would have had a point if they hadn’t been so obviously trying to make a Marvel movie. Right down to the mid-credit and post-credit sequences setting up the next round (wherein Hellboy would presumably face off against Koschei the Deathless).
*. Mike Mignola’s comic is, in fact, something a little different than the usual Marvel fare. And his art has a different style as well. Now it would have been possible for the art director and other people involved in this movie to have taken inspiration from that style and done something distinctive. Sort of like how the Sin City movies visualized what Frank Miller did. Comic book movies don’t have to all look the same. But, alas, what they stuck with here was CGI. Lots of CGI.
*. If you live by CGI you die by CGI. I thought the CGI in this movie to be very poor, especially for 2019. Which means the movie was always going to struggle. Though not necessarily be this bad.

*. Believe me, I don’t want to just dump on this movie. I’d heard all of the bad press and was expecting the worst, but through the first half-hour or so I was enjoying it well enough. Harbour is no Ron Perlman, but he’s not a disaster. I liked seeing Ian McShane, even though he seemed wrong for the part. The hunt for the giants started off well.
*. But then it was hard not to notice the crumby CGI they used for the giants. And then begin to wonder what the hunt episode had to do with the rest of the movie. Absolutely nothing, as things would turn out.
*. The rest of the movie then descends into the usual business about Hellboy coming to grips with his destiny, and his humanity, while being pursued by a wicked witch (Milla Jovovich). Chunks of the plot float around in flashback so we can caught up on all the different characters and their relations to each other. There’s a lot more (fake CGI) gore and bad language than in del Toro’s movies and of course none of del Toro’s honest enthusiasm for the material.
*. As a result, it’s hard to overstate just how dull the second half of the movie is. Giant CGI monsters rise from the pits of hell and start tearing London apart. Because that’s what giant CGI monsters do. There’s more blood than usual, but otherwise that’s it. There are attempts to liven things up with some Marvelesque banter but most of it falls flat. Even the quips are predictable.
*. Bottom line: I didn’t hate it as much as most critics did. But it’s no good. Fans of the comic, or the earlier movies, were disappointed, while I reckon anyone going in cold must have felt pretty confused by what was going on. Given that I doubt there will be a sequel, is it too soon to hit the reboot button again? Or should they just let Big Red lie? I vote for giving him another decade off.

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