- Some decent rock songs on the track, even though they don't match the tone of the movie at all...
- Demons killing people was fuckin' hilarious
- I LOVE YOU LOBSTER JOHNSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Sexist dialogue seems outdated (seriously, we're still using this kind of language to shame men? It's 2019)
- They betrayed the essence of the film's two most important characters
- Essentially everything else about the movie...
Well…for once, the trailer perfectly advertised what we were going to get.
I had my reservations about Hellboy (2019). I knew it wasn’t going to be like del Toro’s films, and I was prepared for that. I made the conscious decision to sever my attachment for Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army and go into this film with fresh eyes and an empty heart, ready to be filled with this new interpretation of a character I’ve come to love.
I like David Harbour, and Neil Marshall directed one of my favourite movies of all time, Doomsday (which you should all go watch if you get the chance – and don’t watch any trailers before doing so! It’s best when you go in blind). We were promised ages ago that this film would take Hellboy back to his horror roots and be darker than any of the del Toro films. I mean…darker than the first del Toro film is quite the ambition, in my opinion, seeing as it was a Lovecraftian horror with clockwork Nazis. But I was ready.
And when I sat down in that darkened theatre opening night, a handful of other movie goers sprinkled throughout the seats, I turned to Pinkie and I said, “I know this is probably gonna be shit, right? But it’s going to be fun!”
If any of you reading this have seen Doomsday, you’ll understand why I said this. I love that movie, don’t get me wrong, but it is pure schlock. But it’s hilarious and fun and a great experience. And that’s what I was hoping for from this movie.
Fuck, you’ve already seen the grade I’m giving it. And, essentially, I’m going to skip my usual review style to just talk.
Replicas is still the worst movie we’ve seen this year, but Hellboy (2019) is…it actually hurts me more. Replicas was just a straight-to-DVD movie that, for some unholy reason, was given wide release in theatres. Hellboy (2019) is a fucking disappointment of herculean proportions.
What astounds me the most about this film is that it’s a film for nobody. It actually kind of reminded Pinkie and I of The Mummy (2017): here’s this reboot to a well-loved cult classic that promises to spawn a franchise as well as bring the property back to its horror roots, and it fails at literally everything. And I do mean everything.
The effects, the story, the acting, the editing, the tone – all of it is flawed in a spectacular way. In the end, it satisfies no one. Horror movie fans will be disappointed, because despite its promises of being dark and horror, it just isn’t. Superhero/comic book movie fans will be left wanting as this really isn’t a superhero movie. Fans of the original comic will be somewhat aghast at what they’ve done to the main characters and be left wondering how exactly this film is closer to Mignola’s books than del Toro’s was. And finally, del Toro fans will be sad that we got a reboot this shoddy as opposed to a finale to a story we love.
To be fair to this film, it doesn’t suck because it’s not a continuation of del Toro’s films. It doesn’t suck because we got this Frankensteined thing instead of Hellboy and Liz babies. If del Toro had never made either of his Hellboy movies, this would still suck.
And here’s why!
The Plot is Terrible
If any of you have ever taken a creative writing class or a Film 101 class, then you’ve probably heard of the “Three Act Structure”. Every story, no matter how much goes on in it, essentially, has three parts to it: the beginning (Act 1), the middle (Act 2), and the end (Act 3). Act 1 sets up your characters and story and sets your key players off on their adventure, Act 2 is the meat of the story and is where most of the shit happens, and Act 3 is the climax and resolution.
Generally speaking, Act 2 should take up most of a story’s time, Act 1 should get over and done with fairly quickly, and Act 3 should be short and sweet.
In ralphthemoviemaker’s review of Transformers: The Last Knight, he makes a general sort of template for a film’s Three Act Structure (this of course isn’t a science or a given, but it’s generally what most well-paced films do):
- Hour 1 of a film = Act 1
- Hour 2 of a film = Act 2
- Last 20 minutes of a film = Act 3
Usually Act 1 is shorter, coming to about 45-55 minutes long, and Act 2 – which is supposed to be longer because the most happens here – should be about 60-70 minutes long, give or take.
Now, I can’t be entirely certain how long Act 1 in Hellboy runs, but the inciting incident when Hellboy finally sees the Blood Queen herself and all the characters have been introduced happened well after an hour into the movie (I asked Pinkie for the time at one point and it was past an hour of running time and the movie was still in Act 1). Then there was next to no Act 2, and then Act 3 felt both really long and really short.
Basically what I’m getting at is that the very structure of this film is fucking broken and it makes the experience a very hard sit. Add on top of that absolutely horrendous dialogue with some really tired and sexist clichés (“Fucking grow some balls and stop being a little bitch!”), Hellboy (2019) was just…pain.
The plot is pretty simple: The Blood Queen wants to eradicate humans and make the world a haven for monsters. The actual story of the film, on the other hand, is incredibly complicated. It’s just a mess of fighting and travelling and meeting new characters and arguing and expositing and repeat for 121 minutes.
Fuck…it’s only 121 minutes…I could have sworn it was 3 hours… Sigh…
Also, why did this story have to be an apocalypse plot? Allegedly this script was birthed from the remnants of del Toro’s script for the Hellboy III we’re never going to get. That would explain a lot…
In the comics, the Blood Queen arc isn’t for a while, and the Rasputin story happens immediately. Here they’ve decided to swap things, even though both Rasputin and the Blood Queen have essentially the same plan for Hellboy.
They both want to use him to take over the world and rain down destruction on the plebs. The only difference is that Nimue is much more powerful and intimidating than Rasputin. So…if I’m to understand this correctly, we start a franchise with a massive, world-ending event caused by a villain of immeasurable power and the plan for a follow-up is another world-ending event caused by another villain with much less power?
Did these people not see what happened to DC? Have they not seen the success of Marvel Studios, which took ten years to build up to their cataclysmic event? Did they think AT ALL before penning this, or did they all just do a couple lines of coke and shit it out in an afternoon before throwing 50 mil at it, hoping it’d work itself out?
Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm Bad
The writing for the characters was bad too – especially Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm. I won’t get into adaptation too much (I plan on covering that later – probably after the film is released on DVD), but what they did to “adapt” these characters…well it makes me question how exactly they had the gall to claim that this movie was supposed to be closer to the comics.
For the moment, let’s focus on our titular hero. In the comic he’s a hardened veteran of monster killing by Mignola’s first volume. He’s pretty jaded to the grim and freaky things of the world and he’s more than happy to stop any monster that hurts people. He’s not terribly bright, but he’s not an idiot. He loves his father and his friends at the BPRD but is pretty cold with everyone else he meets and is, in general, pretty sarcastic and cynical. He never runs from a fight and usually does something stupid and bullheaded because he’s essentially invincible (he’s not immune to being hurt, but it’s pretty hard to back him into a corner). At least, that’s what I’ve seen in the character thus far reading the comics.
In the film, however, Hellboy is…well, he’s a little different, let’s say. He’s dumb as a brick, to begin with. He never shows any signs of intelligence, to be honest, and is manipulated and led into pretty obvious traps over and over again. He’s also an utter coward and frequently screams and cowers at the sight of monsters and humans alike if they threaten to hurt him (for “comedic” value).
He also loses every fight he gets into in this film except two, and one of them he claims was a complete accident. He also switches back and forth between being a monster tormented by his own monsterhood and his desire to “be where the people are”, as Ariel puts it, and a hard-boiled killer who doesn’t care about monsters or their lives and just wants to beat on things even though, for the most part, they just beat on him.
I know I shouldn’t compare to del Toro’s interpretation but…I can’t help it. They might say they don’t want to invite comparisons, but there’s a lot that this film does where they’re just begging for it, and this is one of them.
How can you go so far as to say that you’re “sticking closer to the comics” than the del Toro films when you completely overhaul the personality of your main character? At least Ron Perlman played Hellboy pretty much exactly as he comes across in the comics. The only difference I can think of is that Perlman’s Hellboy is a little more romantic and easily made jealous when it comes to Liz in the first film, but that wasn’t a deviation of character so much as it was a part of his character growth in the first film.
While Pinkie and I were talking about Hellboy as a character and the differences between the performances of Perlman and Harbour, he said this: “[David Harbour] is a Hellboy. Ron Perlman is a Hellman”.
And that pretty well sums it up.
Harbour plays the character like a naïve first-timer to this whole monster killing shtick. He plays him like a young, frivolous goofball who was never cut out for this life, even though based on the dialogue he’s already done the entire “Hellboy in Hell” storyline (which is apparently amazing) and has been going on crazy adventures for years.
It’s just…it’s hard to empathize with a character who is clearly meant to be seen as some sort of heavy metal badass when he’s constantly being kicked around by literally anything that takes a swing at him. Especially when he’s already fought his way through Hell and come back out the other side. How can someone who has been to Hell fucking wig out at anything anymore!?
And then there’s Professor Bruttenholm…Jesus Christ what did they do to him? The sweet, darling old paranormal investigator who decided to raise Hellboy despite him potentially bringing about the end of the world and shaped him into a force for good. The father who was hard on his son but who engendered love and devotion from him anyway. What did they do to him?
Well, first, he’s not really a professor anymore. Or, at least, he’s not a paranormal investigator anymore. No, he’s apparently a retired-monster-killer-turned-paranormal-investigator-after-finding-Hellboy-and-decided-to-be-a-dad-because-reasons person now.
Also they dressed him up like Phil Collins in the “Did You Lose My Number” video in the scene where all this is explained, which was a remake of the Hellboy origin from both the first volume of Mignola’s Hellboy, “Seed of Destruction”, as well as from the first Hellboy film… See what I mean when I said they do things that just invite comparisons?
Back to Bruttenholm for a moment, not only did they make him not a paranormal investigator, they also gutted his relationship with Hellboy. All they fucking do in this movie is whine and bitch and yell at each other. He lies to Hellboy and gives him half-truths constantly, and when Hellboy calls him on his shit, Bruttenholm just condescends at him, pulls some macho crap out of his ass, and starts verbally abusing Hellboy, trying to emasculate him by calling him a “bitch”.
Kind of ruins the whole ending bit where Bruttenholm is the one to convince Hellboy that mankind is worth saving, especially when he starts berating him and tells him to grow a pair.
That’s real nice.
I can see why that inspired love in Hellboy’s heart…fucking ridiculous.
If anyone wants a good example of “toxic masculinity”, just watch all the scenes with Bruttenholm and Hellboy in this fucking travesty.
It’s pretty sickening, actually. The big, emotional moment between a father and a son plagued by the father’s inability to actually connect with his boy, instead opting to just shame him and insult him and denigrate him.
Like, this is the last time they will ever speak, cos SPOILERS, the professor dies like he does in “Seed of Destruction” and del Toro’s Hellboy, and instead of him passing because Hellboy couldn’t save him, leaving the son to mourn the loss of his dearly beloved father, instead he’s killed in front of Hellboy, gets to come back for a moment thanks to some last-minute necromancy, and uses what little time he has left to call his son a little bitch.
Everyone Else is Also Bad
Nimue, the Blood Queen, has zero character. She’s supposed to be some powerful witch queen and temptress extraordinaire but she doesn’t really do anything… If she was in half as many scenes, the plot still would have progressed in her favour and she almost would have won. She doesn’t really manipulate events, she only really has one lackey who she kills in the end, and she has exactly one scene with Hellboy where she offers to fuck him and them later, after saying no to her, he decides, “Eh, why not be bad? Let’s kill all humans now!”. It’s…ugh.
Apparently there were a lot of scenes cut. I’d believe it. And it’s really a shame. She could have been a decent villain but I guess good things are overdone.
Then there’s Daimio who’s just a cranky dude who’s clearly a werewolf (well…werejaguar, but it’s basically the same thing) and doesn’t like monsters cos he’s mad that he’s a monster and he gets a bullet to kill Hellboy to stop the apocalypse but decides, out of nowhere, that he likes Hellboy now and trashes the bullet. Oh yeah, he even years FROM HELLBOY HIMSELF that he’s going to cause the apocalypse, which Daimio ALREADY KNEW, and instead of taking the opportunity to justifiably kill him, scoffs and is like, “Pfft, get over yourself”. Also he could have used that bullet on Nimue at any time to at least distract her, if not hurt her…but whatever.
There’s also Hellboy’s friend from the BPRD who gets turned into a vampire (pointless), The Osiris Club people (also pointless), seer extraordinaire Lady Hatton (C U Next Tuesday), Baba Yaga (gross and pointless and almost a rip-off of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth…y’all are just begging for me to compare you to del Toro, ya fuckin’ hacks), Merlin (pointless again, and frankly confusing as to whether or not he was good or bad…), Nimue’s ex servant and chief betrayer Ganeida (REALLY pointless), and Gruagach the fairy-warthog-changeling…thing (annoying AND pointless).
The only character worth a damn, and I’m including Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm in this, is Lobster Johnson.
I’m kidding. It’s Abe.
Sorry, kidding again. It’s Alice Monaghan, the young spirit medium who saves Hellboy’s life from some giants and helps him commune with the dead, on occasion, including his father during the climax. Even so, her being the best has absolutely zero to do with the writing because she is also kind of a pointless character whose sole purpose is to provide exposition and help the writers get out of the sticky corners they’d written themselves into by killing characters off. Alice is the best because Shasha Lane is fucking adorable and she plays the role with a ton of personality and sass and she was fun to watch.
Next to Alice, Lobster Johnson’s combined four or five minutes of screen time and Abe Sapien’s hand were the best parts of the movie.
The CGI is WORSE than Replicas
Ok…no it isn’t, but it’s really not that much better.
To put things into context, let’s consider the budgets from all three live action films for Hellboy we’ve seen thus far. del Toro’s Hellboy movies had fairly low budgets, for Hollywood movies. The 2004 film had a budget of $66 million and Hellboy II: The Golden Army had a budget of $85 million. Hellboy (2019) had a budget of $50 million.
Now, taking off the rose-tinted glasses when it comes to del Toro films, the effects in those movies are alright. They’re certainly no Life of Pi or Avatar, but the blend of practical effects and CGI is aesthetically pleasing, even though the old CGI doesn’t hold up necessarily all that well. Not to mention the storytelling and acting is so well done that most movie-goers are willing to overlook the rough effects and enjoy the experience.
It is also important to note that, whatever CGI there is in both del Toro Hellboy films is kept relatively sparse. It’s not constant, and when it is used it’s usually in dark, damp places so shiny CGI looks more in-world. There’s also a ton of practical effects that help trick the eye into accepting CG better. Because of this, we get an experience that is reminiscent of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, which still holds up ridiculously well today.
In the end, del Toro just knew how to work with the restrictions of his budget and the technology in order to deliver an immersive and fun experience. He knew that, with limited budget and means, one shouldn’t make a massive, apocalyptic story with hundreds of different monster designs and explosions and a well-known city being destroyed.
Even when the stakes were world-ending and apocalyptic in nature, the conflict was kept relatively miniscule. Rasputin wants to take over the world with Lovecraftian monsters, however the monsters are stopped before they can descend and the final fight is with one giant squid in an old temple thing. Prince Nuada leads Hellboy and his friends to the centre of the Golden Army, but the final fight is between the prince and Hellboy for the right to control said army.
I will never understand why the team behind this film decided it was best to not only begin a franchise with a massive, world-ending event, but why they decided that this was the best thing to do for the budget they were given! It’s mind-boggling.
And I’m not complaining that the film was given too small a budget. In fact, a small budget kind of makes sense when you consider the earliest news around the film was that it was going to be more of a horror movie. If I’ve learned anything from watching horror movies and reviews for horror movies over the years, it’s that a small budget is not a bad thing when it comes to horror. It’s not the effects that make a movie scary, it’s the ambiance the filmmakers create.
Honestly, they probably could have made an excellent Hellboy movie if they’d decided to make it more of a horror thing.
Hell, the film opens with news that one of Hellboy’s friends has gone missing during an investigation of a major vampire nest in Mexico. Why wasn’t that the story?
Vampires can be scary, when done right, and they’re pretty low-budget as fantasy monsters go. All you need is fake blood, a good makeup artist, and some fangs from the dollar store and there you go. Spend the rest of your effects budget on making Hellboy look cool and not like he has the same problem with the prosthetics that Mike Meyers had as the Cat in the Hat, give him a stone hand that actually functions instead of having to use really obvious and embarrassingly distracting CGI to make the fingers move, and maybe one head vampire who turns into a giant bat monster and there you have it!
And since Hellboy is pretty well invincible and not easily harmed, build tension around the other characters who will join him on the mission. Build tension for his friend who has been kidnapped by the vampires, make us actually care about what happens to Daimio and Alice (if you want to keep them on his team) and show Hellboy take bigger risks and bigger wounds in order to protect his less-invulnerable friends.
It would have been a bloody cake walk but NOOOO, no one would care about a Hellboy movie if something loud and obnoxious and bombastic wasn’t happening. It’s not like the good faith del Toro built up would have brought in fans, despite it not being a continuation of del Toro’s work. It’s not like you could have actually taken a risk on this movie and waited to see whether or not it could become a franchise by letting the story and characters speak for themselves.
Gotta make money fast and hard, right? And hope audiences are fucking stupid enough that if you make it seem like a Michael Bay Transformers movie that it’ll rake in the same kind of dough.
I could go on…
But this is already ridiculously long and there’s way too much to cover. Pinkie and I will return to this subject, believe me, but for now I think this is enough.
Don’t go see this movie. It’s not funny bad, it’s not entertaining…there aren’t even any titties, despite the R-rating, which surprised me, honestly, since they kept teasing at it by putting Milla Jovovich and Baba Yaga in skimpy, thin clothing ripe for some tasteless nipple shots… I’m not sure if I’m proud of the filmmakers for at least not being that sexist or if I’m insulted they couldn’t even be bothered to go the whole nine yards after all the nasty shit between Bruttenholm and Hellboy…
It’s a jumbled mess of ideas and predictable plot threads and bad dialogue from people who think saying “fuck” every other word makes your movie edgy and mature and hilarious.
Go back and watch the del Toro movies, watch the animated films (voiced by everyone from the del Toro films), and read the original books by Mike Mignola. Don’t give these people money. Maybe it’ll teach them a lesson…
Happy Easter, everyone, and I’ll post again soon.