In August of 1993, Mike Mignola’s comic-book superhero “Hellboy” made his debut in San Diego Comic-Con Comics #2. In an interview with Nightmare Magazine, Mignola talked about the process leading up to the release, “I’d been working for Marvel and DC for ten years, had done a little bit of everything… I toyed with coming up with a Batman kind of thing, but the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to draw just what I wanted to draw. And the only name I’d ever come up with was Hellboy.” The comics would see an end in 2019, the last issue releasing just April 17th. 26 years of Hellboy concludes in a way that left long-time fans of the series reeling.
Hellboy didn’t just find success in print, however, as he also made the big screen in 2004. This Fantasy/Action film grossed nearly one hundred million dollars in the box office, spawning a sequel in 2008. The film proved just as- if not more- successful, grossing $160 million worldwide. Both director Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, the star actor, were praised for their work on the franchise. A third film was rumored to be on the way, but it never became anything more than rumors; that is, until a reboot was confirmed to be released in 2019.
Fans were unsure of what to think about the reboot, which would no longer be directed by del Toro. Perlman would also not have any hand in the project, something fans of the original films would be angry about. The role of ‘Hellboy’ would instead be given to Stranger Things actor David Arbour. Things were not looking up when it was discovered that the budget for the film would actually be less than the film released in 2004. Movies with a heavy use of CGI, such as 2019’s Hellboy, require a larger budget so that the graphic effects do not look quickly thrown together in a half-baked attempt.
Many were angry enough that they skipped watching the film completely, but some fans were still willing to give it a chance. Trailers and advertisements for the film had caught some attention among the public, and on April 12th, the movie hit theatres. The initial reaction of most critics was overwhelmingly negative, Rotten Tomatoes giving the movie just 15%, one of the lowest scoring films of this year according to their website. Audience scores left the film at around 60%: significantly higher than most critics, but still low considering the people involved and in comparison to films with a similar budget.
This is where my bias as a critic comes into play. I have never seen the original Hellboy movies starring Ron Perlman, nor have I had any experience when it comes to comics, and this is probably something worth considering before you continue. That being said, let me get into the actual review.
This movie was spectacular. David Arbour was the perfect choice for this role, his ability to maintain this image of a menacing beast from hell while also having real emotions and coming off as a genuine character was astounding. Everybody else in this movie was good too, there certainly wasn’t a weak link in the cast. Arbour playing Hellboy was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it a lot. The other actor that really caught my eye was Daniel Dae Kim, playing an officer named Ben who was the cynical but realistic part of the group. He was also a pleasure to watch.
This movie felt amazing to see unfold. Everything about it was so cool, even if it occasionally came off as kind of cheesy. For example, the part about the giant hog having a vendetta against Hellboy because he ruined his plans of pretending to be a ‘normal child’. The CGI was also a bit wonky at times, but that’s to be expected. I remember laughing just because I was having such a good time. Some corny jokes were thrown in there that made me roll my eyes, but that was just a part of the experience. There was one joke in particular involving a head that made the whole theatre groan in the best way.
The music wasn’t spectacular. It’s a movie called Hellboy, so it was loud and bombastic where it needed to be. There was a certain scene with some giants where the camera work was incredible. It was edited to look like one long, continuous shot. We saw Hellboy get knocked through four trees, sliding on the ground– and the camera followed on a dolly the whole way. It was so odd but so entertaining, I’d never seen anything like it before, besides Birdman. But that wasn’t a crazy action movie, not in the same way this was. Other than that, the rest of the movie was shot well. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but I never noticed it being bad enough to comment on.
The ending was very cheesy, but I enjoyed it: the low CGI budget became most noticeable during the ending but by that point I was distracted by the plot wrapping up. When the movie ends, you like most of the characters, even the villain was pretty cool. I liked the whole King Arthur thing near the end too.
This was a complicated movie. It had its flaws, some of them stuck out quite a bit, but if you appreciate this movie for what it is, it’s a good time. The fans had such high expectations for this film that it ultimately ended up not being able to meet them. I’ve talked to someone who’s seen the original movies and they said something along the lines of “It’s not a third del Toro movie, so don’t expect it to be.” I don’t know what the past films were like, I thought this was objectively pretty entertaining. You might hate it, I don’t think you’ll love it, but you’ll probably end up liking it.
Theatres are expensive, so if you want to wait until you can rent it or buy it on sale, go for it. I’d watch it with a friend or two so that you can at least laugh at it for the bad CGI if you don’t enjoy anything else. The movie held my attention the whole way through, and that makes for a decent movie in my book. There was even some horror strewn throughout, because of all the demonic elements that were genuinely frightening, I enjoyed a lot too. Overall I’d say the movie scored a Keegan-approved 5.5/10. That might have been different had I seen the del Toro movies, but I think it’s worth a watch- for David Arbour if nothing else.