The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HELLBOY | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review - HELLBOY

hellboy 2019 review
Reboot of the cult comic book adaptation.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Neil Marshall

Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Brian Gleeson, Sophie Okonedo, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Graham

hellboy 2019 poster





As an adult, I generally struggle with the current crop of comic book movies - they're either too pompous and strait-laced or they misfire in their attempts at comedy - and my brain usually starts tuning out around the hour mark. As a kid, I probably would have lasted no more than 15 minutes with the average modern Marvel or DC adaptation. When I was a kid I was a big comic book fan, but aside from Spider-Man (which, for better or worse, I credit with shaping the sarcastic asshole I grew up to become), I was solely interested in British comics. The likes of 2000AD, Battle and Eagle offered outrageous thrills absent from their stoic American counterparts. Their storylines were often bonkers, their lefty politics stood in stark contrast to the predominantly conservative agenda of mass entertainment in the 1980s, and they were specifically geared to the dubious tastes of young gorehounds, filling in the gaps left by the Video Nasties withdrawn from video store shelves.


hellboy 2019 review


Hellboy isn't an adaptation of an '80s British comic, but in director Neil Marshall's hands it sure feels like one. Whereas most comic book movies have a homogenous, made by committee aesthetic, Marshall's Hellboy plays like the product of someone raised on the unique weirdness of '80s British kids' pop culture. It's Grotbags by way of Pat Mills, all campy characters prancing their way through gore-soaked splash pages. Eight-year-old me would have loved it. Sadly, I'm not eight anymore, so I started tuning out around the hour mark.




Created by Mike Mignola, Hellboy was previously brought to the screen in a pair of much-loved Guillermo del Toro directed movies. I know I watched both of those on release, but I honestly can't remember a single thing about either, so I'm guessing I tuned out around the hour mark. I can say that this reboot is so tonally at odds with those films that it's kind of refreshing to know that in 2019, when it can feel as if the entire western world has become Americanised, that a movie can feel as specifically British as Marshall's does. Hellboy is objectively awful, but any movie that features Mo from Eastenders wielding a shotgun in a fish and chip shop inspires hope that Hollywood is still capable of fostering distinct filmmaking personalities. Throughout this mess of a movie you can't help but feel that Marshall knows this is his one chance to play with the giant train set that is big budget Hollywood filmmaking, and he appears to take as much glee from its derailment as Claude Rains' Invisible Man.


hellboy 2019 review


The plot is as muddled as those of any comic book movie; something about Hellboy (David Harbour) being tasked with taking down a witch (Milla Jovovich) who has lain dormant for centuries after being destroyed by King Arthur. Yes, it's the same plot as Joe Cornish's The Kid Who Would Be King, another product of a distinctively British '80s upbringing. Along the way, Hellboy teams up with psychic council estate resident Alice (a scene-stealing Sasha Lane with one of the better attempts at an English accent I've heard lately) and British special forces soldier Ben (Daniel Dae-Kim with a not so great attempt at an English accent).




Either the movie was taken out of Marshall's hands and cut to ribbons, or it was a mess to begin with, but it certainly feels like it's missing more than few key scenes. Supporting characters pop up in a manner that suggests you should already know who they are and what their motives are, leaving you scratching your head as to their relevance, and in the case of one character, I was utterly befuddled as to whether he was one of the film's heroes or villains.


hellboy 2019 review


Nobody seems to have given this movie much thought, so it's best to watch it with the same mindset. If you can refrain from asking inconvenient questions, it offers some pleasures of the guilty variety. Lane is a having a lot of fun with her "innit bruv?" caricature, and she gets the movie's biggest laugh with its best line, as she struggles to physically keep up with Hellboy and Ben - "I'm not a demon or a soldier, I'm fucking knackered!" Stephen Graham is having even more fun voicing the villainess's henchman, a giant pig with a filthy mouth and a glorious scouse accent, and elsewhere Brian Gleeson nails an impersonation of his father Brendan. Yes, Hellboy is bollocks, but it's bollocks in a refreshingly British way, probably the closest we'll ever get to a Fleetway Publications Cinematic Universe.

Hellboy is in UK/ROI cinemas now.


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