[Screen It]

"HELLBOY"
(2019) (David Harbour, Milla Jovovich) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Horror: A half-demon superhero joins forces with others to try to stop a recently resurrected ancient sorceress from wiping out humanity.
PLOT:
Hellboy (DAVID HARBOUR) is a half-demon superhero who works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense alongside his father, Professor Broom (IAN McSHANE), who adopted him following a WWII Nazi supernatural experiment that went awry.

The Bureau's latest concern is that a boar monster who Hellboy previously dealt with, Gruagach (voiced by STEPHEN GRAHAM, motion capture performance by DOUGLAS TAIT), is actively trying to find all of the parts belonging to Nimue the Blood Queen (MILLA JOVOVICH) and put her back together again.

She was a 6th-century sorceress who was defeated and dismembered by none other than King Arthur who had his men bury her various body parts across England. Gruagach is getting closer to finishing his work and desires to get revenge on Hellboy who finds himself teamed with medium Alice Monaghan (SASHA LANE) and M11 agent Ben Daimio (DANIEL DAE KIM). With Queen Nimue intent on wiping out most of humanity, Hellboy and his companions try to stop that from happening.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
I have a number of fellow film critic friends and associates who seem to believe that most any film outside of those aimed at kids should be rated R. For some reason, they think that allows all involved in the making of a movie more creative freedom in terms of violence, sexual material, and language. At the same time, if you ask them what some of the greatest films of all time are, they'll rattle off films of old that were made before the current MPAA ratings system as well as before such "adult" content was allowed on the screen. And they somehow miss the disconnect there.

If there's proof positive that opening up the content floodgates doesn't make a movie better, it's this week's reboot release of "Hellboy." Back in 2004 writer/director Guillermo Del Toro delivered his adaptation of the then relatively new and fresh comic book character of the same name (who debuted a decade earlier). I wasn't blown away by the movie and view it as one of the filmmaker's lesser offerings, but I found enough worked to give it a recommendation.

That's not happening with this decidedly R-rated remake of that PG-13 film where the F words fly while heads are being split open, limbs are being hacked or ripped off, and you'll hope that a dire warning heard early in the film -- that the end is coming -- will happen sooner than later.

Messy, and featuring choppy storytelling and editing, subpar special effects at times, and trying to cram too many characters and elements into its two-hour runtime, this is a testament that simply bumping things up into R territory does not equal more creativity. Instead, it's just greater mayhem at the expense of telling a story in a visual way that will engage, enthrall or at least mindlessly entertain the masses.

Unlike most superhero movies that are the first installments in however long their series might last, this isn't set up as an origins sort of tale. Sure, there's a brief flashback to the moment when our title character is spawned from down below during a WWII era, Nazi-based, supernatural experiment gone awry (and which features Thomas Haden Church as a Nazi killing figure known as "The Lobster" who then shows up in the middle of the end credits).

But rather than start there and continue through the pains of adolescence and such like normal, screenwriter Andrew Cosby starts us off in the dark ages (which, narrator Ian McShane explains were called that for "f*cking good reason") where we see good ol' King Arthur lop off the arm and then head of an evil sorceress (Milla Jovovich) and then box up more such parts that are to be buried across England and forgotten to time.

Or will they be? Of course not, and upon consulting with one of many horrid looking witches the film's makeup and special effects crew deliver, a boar monster (voiced by Stephen Graham with a motion capture performance by Douglas Tait) starts retrieving all those parts to do the Humpty Dumpty with the previously disassembled queen. Okay, that makes it sound more R-rated than it already is, but in any event, she's put back together and wants to wreak black plague havoc across the lands because, well, that's just what evil sorceresses with a grudge apparently want to do.

After dispatching a Tijuana-based wrestler who's hiding more than his good looks under his mask and costume, our anti-hero (David Harbour doing his best to fill in Ron Perlman's shoes from the previous films) is summoned back to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense where his adoptive father (Ian McShane) sends him off to a club to hunt some giants. Things go awry due to treachery and, you know...giants, people end up eaten and giants are slain. All of which then leads, somewhat inexplicably, to Hellboy waking up in the apartment of a young medium (Sasha Lane) who he previously rescued as an infant from the aforementioned boar monster when he was just a wee piglet.

That leads to them being teamed with a sour M11 agent (Daniel Dae Kim) with big scars on his face and a distaste for and distrust of our protagonist. Throw in a bunch of monsters, reanimated corpses, more witches and, well, you probably won't care a lick.

There have been reports of discord on the set between director Neil Marshall, the producers, and Harbor and it shows. You can't really tell if it was a problem with the original script, the way things were shot, or how they've been edited, but it's all a disappointing mess that simply gets worse the longer it drags on.

Accordingly, there's no reason for me to drag this out any more than necessary. Proof that dropping F-bombs and body parts in spectacularly gory fashion doesn't mean a thing if all other aspects of an offering don't work, "Hellboy" fails as a reboot of an earlier movie that didn't need to be remade. It rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed April 9, 2019 / Posted April 12, 2019


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