A lot has happened in cinema since the first ever Hellboy movie hit cinemas way back in 2004. It is for that reason that the new Hellboy doesn’t shock us the way that the old film did. Superhero movies now seem to hit the cinema every other week, there is no big countdowns to when the next will arrive and perhaps the biggest shock value of Hellboy – the gore and swearing is also now the norm thanks to Deadpool.
Having said that though Hellboy does hold up and is enjoyable, just don’t expect the same feelings of seeing something so fresh and new like you did as the final credits rolled back in 2004. It is like director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) and screenwriter Andrew Cosby (Haunted, Eureka) anticipated that and instead went about creating a film with a strong screenplay that manages to capture the attention of its audience in other ways.
This reboot finds Hellboy (David Harbour – The Green Hornet, Suicide Squad) working for his father, Professor Broom (Ian McShane – Deadwood, Snow White And The Huntsman) in The United States Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defense hunting down whatever the paranormal can send their way.
The organisation becomes tested though when a alliance is severed in spectacular events and Hellboy finds himself in England having to team up with a talented young psychic called Alice (Sasha Lane – American Honey, Daniel Isn’t Real) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim – The Cave, Insurgent) – an army Major who simply doesn’t trust Hellboy. The team are forced together after it is learnt that a demonic pig named Gruagach (Stephen Graham – This Is England, Snatch) is gathering the pieces that will put the powerful Blood Witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich – The Fifth Element, Resident Evil) back together and help her rise once again.
The thing that stands out most about Hellboy is that its screenplay allows it to play out in a more natural way than most superhero movies do these days. It is not just relentless action sequence after action sequence, instead the film paces out its action so that scenes such as Hellboy taking on the giants does actually feel like an event within the film itself. Likewise the film does contain twists and turns that do keep the audience on their feet and while the film is an origins story of sort it is like Marshall knows that most of the film’s audience will already know the Hellboy story so only touches on it when he needs to rather than cluttering the film with unnecessary exposition and flashbacks.
For the most part the film focuses on bond developing between Hellboy, Ben and Alice while pleasantly, meandering through a storyline that mixes Arthurian mythology with your traditional good versus evil in modern times storyline. The screenplay also allows the suspense to seep throughout the film as secrets are revealed to the audience about characters and their actions, especially Ben, and to be honest they are at times more entertaining than the back story to Hellboy or even what is happening with Nimue.
Of course the other big change with the Hellboy franchise this time around is that David Harbour is now playing the giant beast. Harbour does a good job and to be honest the costume itself means that the absence of Pearlman is noticed even less. In a way Harbour almost portrays a more relatable Hellboy and he is well backed up by Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane. Lane once again shows that her performance in American Honey was no fluke and that she is a star on the rise, while Kim shows Hollywood that is ready to become an action hero and step up to some bigger roles.
Sadly though the screenplay does let down Milla Jovovich a little. The talented actress almost seems wasted in the role of Nimue. The downside of the film is that as a character Nimue is given very little characterisation. Like so many superhero movies these days she is a throw-away, easy-to-forget baddie that easily could have been made a much more interesting character. Therefore it is a real shame that someone with the talents of Jovovich is wasted in a role that could have been so much better.
To sum up though Hellboy is an enjoyable film that will be enjoyed by fans of the franchise though. The action sequences take on a more fantasy film then we have come to expect from companies like Marvel and DC and the result is a film that conjures up images of Ghost Rider and Harry Potter as you watch it. The film itself works despite the serving of another forgettable villain, but the performances of Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane more than make up for that. Hellboy is more than serviceable and promises big things to come.