December 8, 2021

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[Review] Hellboy: movie from hell?

It is difficult to get behind the two Hellboys of Guillermo del Toro, whose aborted third opus is still the subject of all fantasies among enthusiasts. But it is the bet attempted by Lionsgate which offers the offspring of Hell a new adventure, between reboot and remake, by entrusting the camera to Neil Marshall, spotted thanks to The Descent, and the horns filed to David Harbor that the fans of Stranger Things are familiar with. If we add the involved supervision of Mike Mignola, the creator of the anti-hero, we wonder what could go wrong …

The answer is unfortunately almost everything. Except that it should be clarified from the outset that there is absolutely no need to play the comparison card with the work of del Toro to realize the failure of this Hellboy 2019. We would have preferred. For those who missed the bandwagon, Hellboy (David Harbor) is therefore a creature from hell, summoned by occult powers and saved by Professor Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) who raises him to do good. Faced with the immortal witch Nimu (Milla Jovovich), he will have to choose between saving a humanity that continues to see him as a monster, or becoming the instrument of his destruction.

When we see the images of the various trailers and the promises heard here and there, we logically said to ourselves that all these little people were going to get their heads full of joy, and with the deluge of hemoglobin that it should.

We also paused to point out that the blood was not just a com effect and that it is indeed very very present throughout the duration of the footage. Admittedly, the visual effect is not always meant to be beautiful, it is rarely useful – the number of purely free butchery plans is quite high -, but it will appeal to amateurs of charcuterie not too demanding. Failing to take the guts, Hellboy hangs the guts (sorry).

A poorly assembled tote
According to a recent article in The Wrap, filming Hellboy would have been a nightmare. It seems that Marshall and producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin have kindly scoured each other throughout, with the latter openly criticizing several director’s choices and Levin even often giving the actors different instructions. As is often the case in this kind of situation, the filmmaker would not have had control over the final cut of the film. Obviously the situation is much more complex and the easy thought of seeing Marshall as the good guy in the story should be avoided; nevertheless the case gains sufficient importance as soon as it is felt on what is shown in theaters.

It only takes a few minutes for Hellboy to reveal a major flaw: its lack of consistency. The cutting of the scenes is illustrated by its brutal, awkward side, with the insertion of one sequence in the middle of another (the last part is catastrophic at this level). We quickly tire of trying to understand what is going on. The structure of the story itself doesn’t really help us, because it feels like Mignola preferred to incorporate a lot of elements from his comics rather than build a real story. As a result, we constantly move from one place to another without dwelling on any, the characters follow one another and disappear at a frightening speed, and we can easily remove more than half of the film without it having a real impact on the story.

If we want to avoid seeing the glass half empty, we will note that this Gloubi-boulga manages to make a few scenes stand out from the crowd, in particular a passage with the Baba Yaga, murky well as it should be and with a real staging playing on the light. That’s the great thing about being offered everything, is that you always find something to save.

It’s the trick to nanar
Editing, special effects, story, in substance as in form, Hellboy is a failure and looks like a car driving at full speed on a mountain road, without anyone holding the steering wheel or the pedals. Even the interpretation of David Harbor only exacerbates the problem with the writing of the characters, our hero constantly contenting himself with throwing the valves off while his nature is questioned. As for his companions (Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Ian McShane) or our big bad, they are treated as extras. Depth level, it is the zero degree.

One thing that cannot be taken away from the film, however, is the generosity it shows. The blood, the fan-service (as seen above), the impressive bestiary and the omnipresent action demonstrate a real desire to please the spectator, or at least to drown the fish. Failed attempt since we will take almost no pleasure in front of this badly screwed entertainment, but the intention was there as they say. And if we manage to consider the film object as a Z series in spite of itself in the lineage of Gods of Egypt, that is to say what we will call “the film that you watch with your friends to have a good laugh on your back”, you can even find pleasure in mockery. Especially since Hellboy is ready to play more than once, even if we will never really know if he is doing it on purpose.