Deep in England’s dark ages, King Arthur slays the evil Blood Queen Nimue (Mila Jovovich) at Pendle Hill. Swearing retribution upon both him and his kind, Nimue is boxed up and her body parts scattered to the furthermost reaches of the kingdom. Now back in the present, the story picks up again with half-man, half-boar-like fairy Gruagach (Stephen Graham) who swears his own kind of revenge upon Hellboy (David Harbour). In reassembling Nimue’s body parts, Gruagach aims to use her to reawaken the latent beast that dwells inside Hellboy and thereby damn him for all eternity.
…a rebooted franchise that wantonly chokes on the footprints of its predecessors.
For Neil Marshall’s intended ‘R’ rated reboot of ‘Hellboy’, the road to this particular hell is paved with contradictory intentions. Formerly known for films such as the irreverent ‘Dog Soldiers’ and excellent chiller ‘The Descent’, Marshall could have been said to have picked up a fragrant franchise as left by director Guillermo Del Toro. However quickly falling backwards onto hoary old Arthurian legend, this reimagining swiftly impales itself on its own gory ambitions. With the same frenetic pacing that made Hugh Jackman’s ‘Van Helsing’ such a glaze for the eyes, the lesson from then remains unlearnt now. In trying to hide a slim volume inside an ‘R’ rated gorefest, 2019’s ‘Hellboy’ quickly becomes another visual feast that’ll leave you hungry for characterisation.
Glued to its chips-with-everything manner of story-telling, rock guitar-breaks signal, sign and complete every set piece designed to paper over its plot. The dialogue, a loud mixture of shouts and pouts, also struggles against the splatter-gun score. With only Ian McShane’s voice clear enough to cut through the cacophony, the rest of the cast’s reach for an English inflection loudly clatters downwards in unison. Splintering both plywood and eardrums, Mila Jovovich’s understandably disembodied Blood Queen only gets to display a three shift gear of sneer, threaten and scream, whilst the others don’t fare much better in what amounts to a bloodier episode of Dr Who said what? Sadly lost within a rebooted franchise that wantonly chokes on the footprints of its predecessors, David Harbour’s rendition of Hellboy gets left behind as a permanently-bemused adolescent who whines as much as he wallops.
Ultimately nailed together as a collection of cut-scenes rather an absorbing narrative, this latest ‘Hellboy’ entry trades gravity for gracelessness in a film that neither impresses nor entertains. In trying to reach for an ‘R’ rated replication of ‘Deadpool’s adult-orientated traction, ‘Hellboy’ has lost the very thing that its main character coveted the most: its soul.
The way back from here will require more than good intentions if the next ‘Hellboy’ is to climb out of this tawdry pit.