In the mid 2000s, Guillermo Del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) crafted two supernatural superhero films based on the “Hellboy” comics with intricate visuals, layered worldbuilding and endearing characters. In 2019, Neil Marshall directed a sequel/remake bereft of that vision — and all traces of humanity whatsoever.
David Harbour, the long-working and talented actor who made a name for himself on “Stranger Things,” unfortunately signed on for this project.
He stars as the titular character, a powerful Cambion, or human-demon hybrid, that works for a governmental agency sworn to research and protect against supernatural dangers. His skills are tested when a King Arthur-age Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich, “Resident Evil”) comes back for vengeance after Merlin cut her to pieces. We have the privilege of standing by as she embarks on a multi-objective quest: first, to destroy all mankind; and second, to test the audience’s will to watch it.
Both of these characters, the protagonist and the antagonist, are simultaneously the most boring aspects of the film and the biggest hogs of screentime. They’re also just all around campy. Harbour isn’t really at fault for the bland lines written into his part of the script, but he does fail to rise above the screenwriting flames. As for the resident evil witch, her character arc was questionable even before we had to watch a scene of her dismembered hand channel surfing while the rest of her body parts lay heaped in a pile on the couch like a godforsaken episode of “Spongebob Squarepants.”
Like that show, fans of this movie probably understand and accept a stoic truth: What you see is what you get. The movie really isn’t a movie so much as it is a slew of campy and ridiculously gory vignettes stitched together against an electric guitar-heavy soundtrack.
If finding creative ways to eviscerate humans and monsters equates to a crucial component of entertainment, then this movie is for you. As harsh as that is, this movie’s affinity for inventive gore is probably its only truly creative element. There are some elaborate set pieces and a few examples of impressive makeup to boot, but other than that, the film pretty much just expects its audience to plop down and enjoy the bloody, brainless ride.
Its attempts at mythology and lore are a wash because even the most convoluted plot points still feel unoriginal.
Look, from what I understand, “Hellboy,” which is based on a Dark Horse Comics character, is supposed to be gory, dark, good-humored fun. The problem is, this movie is missing the fun. Its attempts at light-hearted violence would contend otherwise, but I was never invested enough in what was going on to find enjoyment in the death count. It’s also missing the artistic flair that allowed Del Toro’s films to resonate beyond the on-screen cacophony.
Sadly, this hard-R, hell-themed flick both peaks and hits rock bottom in a span of about five minutes, ending with Harbour’s character tongueing a one-eyed, deformed witch woman — a separate character from the vengeful Blood Queen, mind you. As we watch her spider-like body writhe across the floor of her treehouse-on-chicken legs in what appears to be an attempt at an action sequence, we are at our most intrigued and most disgusted. At least that part of the movie wasn’t boring.
Really, this whole movie can be summed up in that tug-of-war between tedium, confusion and all-out revulsion. Given, this kind of movie has never been my cup of tea, but I would hope that this isn’t all a supernatural vigilante adventure has to offer. It may please some fans of the source material, but more than likely it will only entertain fans of incessant gore. What some might call fun, I call insufferable.
If this project's first weekend box office numbers are any indication, this won’t be anyone’s finest moment attached to it. But hey, at least Harbour can put this behind him as soon as season three of “Stranger Things” comes out.
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
Traveler Score: D