By: Jolie Featherstone
Director Neil Marshall (The Descent) brings his signature blend of murky macabre and blood-soaked adrenaline to Hellboy, the latest cinematic incarnation of the beloved Dark Horse graphic novel series. Starring David Harbour of Stranger Things fame as the titular anti-hero and Milla Jovovich as Nimue (also known as the Blood Queen), Marshall’s Hellboy is a genre-bending departure from the earlier screen adaptations directed by Guillermo Del Toro. This installment does not call back to Del Toro’s films. Instead, it takes its inspiration from the graphic novels. Three graphic novels to be exact: Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury.
The film tackles Hellboy’s origin story (revealing his biological parentage and his “adoption”), as well as the beginning of his friendship with Alice Monaghan (played by rising star Sasha Lane) and the enigmatic Major Ben Daimio (played by Daniel Dae Kim of Lost) – both of whom carry their own secret powers.
Following an unexpected turn of events where allegiances are tested and terrible truths are unveiled, Hellboy discovers that an ancient sorceress (aptly known as the Blood Queen) has been resurrected and is thirsting to avenge a past betrayal. Hellboy becomes hell-bent on stopping the Blood Queen from enacting her horrifying plan while trying not to trigger the end of the world. Sounds simple right? Let’s just say, audiences are in for an epic battle to save humanity.
The most important question in the inquiring minds of fans is this: how will David Harbour’s performance of Hellboy fare? Rest assured, he aces it. Harbour’s performance as Hellboy is the crowning jewel of the film. The heroic yet conflicted Hellboy struggles with his sense of belonging and his responsibility to an unforgiving humanity. That internal turmoil manifests through the sarcastic attitude that has charmed fans from the beginning. Harbour kicks it up a notch by bringing a passionate and, yes, sensitive layer to the role.
Hellboy also features monsters that Ray Harryhausen would be proud of. Including some of the most original creatures in recent Hollywood memory, the monsters that emerge in the film’s final act are nightmares beautifully brought to life. Though there are some admirable practical effects, the film is CGI-heavy which weighs it down at times. Regardless, any fan of monster flicks will get a kick out of the film’s creations.
The film is pure grindhouse cinema with entertaining combat sequences, and stylized with elements of superhero-style action, dark fantasy, and classic creature feature. Rest assured it doesn’t skimp on the comedy. Drawing inspiration from the three aforementioned comic books, though ambitious, renders the film a bit unwieldy. The weight of the diverging storylines steers the editing and pacing off course, resulting in a somewhat rushed and disorienting viewing experience.
Bearing in mind Hellboy is a blood-splattered love letter to the drive-in flicks of yesteryear, the film provides a frenetic but fun ride with brawls, blood, and monsters galore. Strap yourself in for a hell of a ride!
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