It would be very surprising if a worse blockbuster than Hellboy arrives in 2019
So much potential. Oh well.
In the grand scheme of terrible movies, it does seem like comic-book movies have a higher chance than most of ending up in the so-bad-they're-good category.
Batman & Robin is obviously the grand-daddy of them all, but there is still some fantastically perverse satisfaction to be mined while watching something like Catwoman, or Green Lantern, or Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.
That isn't even the case for the 2019 reboot of Hellboy, which defies the laws of linear time by somehow being both two hours long, and absolutely fucking endless.
After the match-made-in-heaven duo of movies from 2004 and 2008, which had future Oscar-winner Guillermo Del Toro behind the camera, and born-to-play-it Ron Perlman in the red body paint, it does make a certain kind of sense why they'd want to go back to this well: now is the time of the superhero genre, so might as well strike while the iron is hot.
David Harbour seems like a good fit for the lead role, having played a bit of a tough teddy bear already in Stranger Things, but his Hellboy is too snarky and too petulant to be likeable. There has always been a "I'm going to my room to BLARE heavy metal music" teenage angst vibe to Hellboy, but it is played too straight here to be enjoyable.
He's surrounded by a supporting cast that are given next to nothing to do by the script: Sasha Lane (American Honey) is a psychic with a past with Hellboy, but she only pops up halfway through the movie to (literally) vomit exposition. Ian McShane (John Wick) is both Hellboy's adoptive father and the leader of the paranormal investigation group he works for, there to give a sense of gravitas that never arrives. Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) is the fellow agent with mysterious scars on his face that hates Hellboy because... reasons?
And finally, we have Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen, the movie's big baddie, one with a semi-decent motivation, which, in better hands, might have gone somewhere interesting. There is a sense that the mystical creatures that are now attacking humanity are only doing so because humanity has almost hunted them to extinction, but director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game Of Thrones) doesn't seem too bothered about any of that.
What he does care about is violence. Blood and guts and smushed heads. Remember that scene from Game Of Thrones, the Mountain versus the Viper? Remember how that ends, with a shock of explicit, too-realistic gore? Well, that is how EVERY scene in this new Hellboy ends.
It is shockingly violent, but played against a tone of "The world is about to end, LOL", it just doesn't sit right. Are we supposed to care that Hellboy might be drawn to the dark side, after he realises that humanity has been using him to hunt and kill "his own kind"? The movie doesn't seem to, so we probably shouldn't either. More exploding heads to distract!
There are hints throughout that there was initially an incredible dark vibe, especially when we visit (and hold on, because this is a bit of a trip) a parallel universe, in which a walking house is the home to an ancient, evil, scorpion-looking witch who has a back room full of dead toddlers that she feasts on. It is an insanely dark scene, one that exposes what could have been a much better, more horror-focused movie, but we're guessing that some hasty additional scenes were shot to lighten the tone and up the humour, resulting in an astoundingly erratic, plodding, joyless, personality-free end product.
Between all that, and the bad CGI, and the mostly wooden performances, the final nail arrived when Brian (son of Brendan, brother of Domhnall) Gleeson showed up as King Arthur's right-hand-magician Merlin (oh yeah, Hellboy is linked to Arthurian legend now) to finally explain the plot to the movie, at a point when we had all but given up hope that the movie even had one. "It must be nearly over now," we thought. There was still an hour left.
Hellboy was sent here to save humanity, but who will save us, the audience, from this torturous eternity with him?
Hellboy is released in Irish cinemas from Friday 12 April.
Clip via Lionsgate Movies