‘Hellboy’ is nothing more than an uninspired and overworked remake of a cult classic

Guillermo Del Toro’s 2004 (loose) adaption of the anti-hero comic book series Hellboy was an instant classic that carefully blended all the best elements of its source material and combined them with Del Toro’s unique ability to ground even the most far fetched of concepts. Where Del Toro’s film had a tongue in cheek sense of humor that paid homage to the comics while still creating its own unique style, the 2019 remake is devoid of all the personality and character that made both the original film and the comic series so well loved. Instead, Hellboy is an uninspired, overproduced drudge of a film that is somehow too edgy and not edgy enough at the same time.

Starring David Harbour as the half-human half-demon known only by the titular moniker “Hellboy”, the movie follows Hellboy’s mission to prevent the destruction of the world and discover the truth about his origins along the way. That’s about as specific as possible I can get with the plot, however, because it’s so filled to the brim with unnecessary details and contrived side plots that it becomes difficult to follow what would be an otherwise basic premise. What makes it worse is the fact that the movie briefly touches on several concepts that would serve as complex and interesting issues, but then immediately squanders any potential in favor of shoddy CGI fight scenes and one-liners that consistently fall flat.

One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of the film is its ample use of its ‘R’ rating. Ripe with violence and language, Hellboy wastes no time making it clear to the viewer that it intends to follow in the footsteps of other massive box office successes like Deadpool. However, where Deadpool had a tight script and a magnetic lead to counterbalance the over-the-top violence, Hellboy is achingly lacking. Though David Harbour is by no means a bad actor, his portrayal of Hellboy leaves much to be desired. For a character with such a vibrant background (raised from the pits of hell by Rasputin during World War 2), one would think that Hellboy would be dynamic and interesting in the hands of such a capable actor. After all, Harbour brought great charm to a similarly grumbly character in Stranger Things and was nominated for an Emmy for his efforts. Suffice to say, Harbour’s portrayal is hardly award-worthy. Under all the layers of bright red makeup and prosthetics, he shuffles his way from scene to scene, seeming uninterested in being involved in the story whilst I was watching it.

The supporting cast isn’t much better. Continuing the trend of squandering interesting concepts, his two traveling companions are Daniel Dae Kim as a werejaguar, and Sasha Lane as wisecracking teenager Alice, who has the ability to speak to the dead. Though both actors do the best with what they’re given, the characters are so underdeveloped and uninteresting in practicality that I had to google their names in order to write this review. Rounding out the cast is Milla Jovovich as Nimue the Blood Queen who, in keeping with the rest of the film, is overexplained and underdeveloped.

In terms of action, Hellboy is passable. It’s certainly violent and filled to the brim with gory battle sequences, but in an era of high-flying superhero films and tightly-choreographed thrillers, only the excessive amounts of blood make Hellboy stand out from the rest of the pack. The icing on the cake are the inconsistent special effects, some of which are commendable (like Hellboy’s makeup design) but others are laugh-out-loud deplorable (particularly, the bizarre way in which the film decided to showcase Alice’s powers).

At the end of the day, Hellboy somehow manages to fail at every opportunity it’s given. It improperly utilizes its source material, it barely scratches the surface on truly interesting concepts, it can’t seem to commit to a particular tone, and it very clearly tries (and fails) to emulate other recent hits that have come before it. For all the effort it puts into trying to convince the viewer they’re watching something of substance, Hellboy is nothing more than an unnecessary cash grab of a remake intent on earning its money through the goodwill of fans of the original.