Hellboy (2019)

Hellboy (2019) Review: Hellish, All Right

Hellboy (2019)

Movie Rating:


The new Hellboy has awfully big shoes to fill. Not only does the movie reboot and serve as a prequel to the ambitious films by Guillermo del Toro, it also recast the big red guy himself. Sadly, it’s a slog and a mess.

Starting just after a long ago battle between King Arthur (Mark Stanley) and the Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), we see the powerful witch drained of blood and sectioned into nine separate mini coffins. Much like Thanos and Voldemort, these pieces need to be reassembled if Nimue is ever to gain back her power. This sets the stage for the overarching plot, though the film is only loosely draped around this frame.

David Harbour stars as Hellboy this time. His version of the big guy is just as red and surly as the one in the comics, but he somehow lacks that baseline of warmth and humor. His tender side isn’t given much attention, and he’s only allowed to act like a stubborn teenager, even when reunited with the young woman he rescued when she was a baby (Sasha Lane).

This stifled Hellboy isn’t even the worst part of the movie. The bloated plot is. Or it could be the distractingly bad CGI. Or maybe the fact that the film was edited in such a choppy manner that the entire thing feels like you just missed the previous scene and are not quite sure precisely what’s happening on screen or why the characters are where they are. No, actually, I think the worst part of Hellboy is the non-stop exposition.

Because it jumps from one unrelated scene to the next, trying to cram far too much backstory and plot into a film that should just let the action and characters carry it, the dialogue explaining what’s happening from one moment to the next is never-ending. When Hellboy encounters Baba Yaga (Troy James and Emma Tate, thanks to CGI) in her own realm, the ferocious Russian fairy tale creature just won’t shut up. She spends nearly the entire encounter droning on about all the details of her motivation and history with Hellboy. When we meet the super secret underground society that bands together to fight giants and once fought Nazis, every moment of that group’s history is told to us in useless detail. Heck, even as the final showdown between Hellboy and Nimue is taking place, the witch talks the entire fight.

The one thing that can be appreciated for a certain sect of the audience (myself included) is the bloodiness within the film. Too often, flesh wounds and bullet holes are bloodless and shown as having little consequence. Here, the blood flows freely and gleefully. When a gruesome injury happens, it’s not off-screen or just hinted at; it’s often shown right in the center of the frame, with blood splashing back towards the audience. This hyper-violent streak feels authentic to the spirit of the comics and is a tonal match for the many monstrous fight sequences in the film. That’s not to say that all these effects look great. In fact, much of the VFX work is laughably terrible, but I admire the unflinching camera, at least.

Hellboy sure does try hard to explain itself and wow us with violence, but never hits its stride.


  1. Chaz

    Man, so much bad talk about this one, I’m seeing it this weekend and it looks like a total blast IMO. I love Schlocky, cheese action gore movies quite a bit and I can deal with a bunch of exposition, that kind of thing never bothered me much. Was really hoping it would be good enough for more than someone who enjoys that stuff though…..hard to believe we would get such a failure in todays Super Hero world of really good to great films almost all of the time. Interested to see the Audience score on this one though because all the critics hated Venom and the audience loved it, myself included 🙂

  2. I just don’t understand what the purpose of this movie is. Neither of the first two Hellboy movies set the box office on fire the way their studios hoped, but they have enough of a fan base to clamor for another sequel with del Toro and Perlman.

    You’d think that if a new studio (Lionsgate) wanted to reboot the property with a new director and new star, they’d try to rework it to appeal to the broader audience that eluded the others. Yet by all appearances, this follows the same formula as the first two, just with a different actor, worse makeup, and seemingly a dumber script.

    What’s the point of making it this way? If you’re not going to try to appeal to any audience beyond what the first two movies already had, why not just make the direct sequel those fans wanted? Both del Toro and Perlman expressed a desire to return.

    • Bolo

      My guess is that the justification is that there’s way more of an audience for these types of movies now than when del Toro made his films. The success of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Venom’ actually make this seem like a sound financial investment these days. Maybe this one will do poorly, but you can certainly make a case for it being the type of thing that is far more popular now than it was in the 2004.

      • Even to that end, bringing back newly-minted Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro still seems like a wiser decision that would appeal to both existing fans and new ones. Doing it this way just seems like it’s going to alienate the old audience for no reason.

        • julian

          Indeed, they could have marketed a third part as ‘from the Oscar-winning director of ‘The Shape of Water’…’, but they went with this. Odd!

  3. boston007

    Glad this is getting bad reviews. The trailer made it look stupid.

    First movie was great, second not as good.

  4. Pedram

    I had high hopes, even though this wasn’t the original star and director. I really liked the second Hellboy and thought not couldn’t be a bad thing.
    Sadly, the movie just wasn’t good. It fell prey to the Transformers formula, where it tried to make up for lack of good story with an abundance of action and CGI but forgot to make us care about the characters in that action/CGI.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *