Thu, 25 Apr 2019
Hellboy 3.0 (15)
Running time 2hr
DESPITE being released at a time when the comic book adaptation fad was in its infancy, Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy films were breathtakingly maverick endeavours, a world apart from Marvel’s fledgling franchise in terms of their tone and
imaginative pedigree. The sequel, in particular, was viewed as a dry run for del Toro’s aborted billing as director of the Hobbit movies and it was, indeed, a sumptuous dress rehearsal, chock-full of gorgeous visuals and urban fantasy grit. In the eyes of this critic, it constituted one of those rare situations in fiction where all that could be said was said the first time around, where any further outing could only hope to quiver in the shadow of its predecessors. A decade after Ron Perlman last donned the unmistakable red-makeup-and-duster-coat combo, this new flick sets out to prove that very point.
In the end, Hellboy 3.0 is a reboot nobody was crying out for. Brit horror veteran Neil Marshall is on directorial duties; David Harbour, an established Hollywood hardman of Perlman’s ilk, is the inevitable shoe-in for the title role. Struggling to plug a del Toro-shaped hole, the film scrambles to carve out a niche for itself – whereas its forerunners were decidedly PG-13 fare (due partly to the scepticism of mid-Noughties studios towards ‘blood-and-guts’ fantasy cinema), this new effort evokes the raw, brutal violence of the comics. If the latter is, in itself, your thing, you could do much worse than gorehound Marshall, but his low-tech approach, characterised by much skewering of torsos, crushing of skulls and general ill-lit nastiness, contrasts woefully with del Toro’s mastery of CGI; he’s similarly lacklustre in channelling the source material’s unbridled wackiness, the very factor that made the Hellboy phenomenon worth talking about in the first place. Its generic, globetrotting plot, involving a witch (Milla Jovovich, who never seems to be far from this sort of tripe) bent on the destruction of humanity, ensures that the film plays out like a kitchen-sink Avengers jaunt.
We are granted glimpses at what might have been a half-decent threequel (a giant hunt, a flashback to Hellboy’s origins), but they’re just that, glimpses – shot and edited as they are with a riotous lack of discipline, everything about them feels crass, half-baked, fresh off the storyboard. The screenplay is a putrid mess, replete with sub-Deadpool wisecracks and pop culture references ripped straight from the pages of a teenager’s fan script. Setting itself up as a ‘mature’ reimagining of a long-dormant franchise, it proceeds to veer wildly off in every which thematic direction, throwing vulgar comedy and Gilliamesque absurdism into the mix before totally stalling out in a lackadaisical third act.
Despite Marshall’s acclaimed work on Game of Thrones, Hellboy’s larger-scale action sequences make for a clumsy, painful watch, as Harbour mumbles and shouts his way through a series of poorly-rendered clashes. As a standalone actioner, it’s a drab, troublesome case; considered in the light of what became before it, the film is an irredeemable catastrophe.