Since Mike Mignola created Hellboy in 1993, he has been a fan favorite character, growing his own mini-universe of characters and spinoff series. Mainstream audiences certainly got to know him in a pair of features from director Guillermo Del Toro, who put his own spin on the world. Over the last decade, Del Toro and star Ron Perlman talked about a third film but one thing or another kept getting in the way. Then, BOOM! founder Andrew Cosby and Mignola got to work on a script and Del Toro walked, followed by Perlman so it morphed into a full-fledged reboot.
Did we need a reboot? No. Did we need this film at all? Probably not and the poor box office has shut the doorway to Hell for subsequent installments. Perhaps he works best in print with Mignola being the sole voice.
David Harbour is having a moment. This month he had a terrific character arc in season three of Stranger Things and last night on Netflix, he was seen in Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, which I hear good things about (and we’ll see him next year in Black Widow). He brings a fresh approach to the demon, less world-weary than his predecessor but just as snarky. His relationship with Dr. Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) is a far warmer one and less one-sided.
The story is drawn from Dark Horse’s Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury with material pulled from Hellboy in Mexico. The short version is that here, Nimue (Milla Jovovich) was the world’s deadliest witch and it took King Arthur (Mark Stanley) and Merlin (Brian Gleeson) together to defeat her, using Excalibur to chop her into six pieces. Each was boxed, blessed, and buried. Some two decades ago, a fairy, Gruagach (Stephen Graham/Douglas Tait), was left in place of infant Alice Monaghan. Hellboy arrived and beat the boar-like beast, rescuing the baby. After all this time, Gruagach wants revenge and collects Nimue’s parts and has witches sew her together for a new round of terror. Joining Hellboy in stopping Hell from coming to Earth are the adult Alice (Sasha Lane), a powerful medium, and BPRD’s Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), a man with a secret, who also distrust Hellboy, especially after learning of the prophecy he is intended to be the demon who lays waste to the world.
And we’re off. There’s blood and gore and guts. There are special effects, transformation sequences, fantasy flashbacks, reading Lewis Carroll and more. But there’s nothing special here with a seen-it-all-before feel. Director Neil Marshall makes it all look good but gets uneven performances from the cast (although it’s great seeing Thomas Hayden Church as Lobster Johnson).
Nimue is a one-dimensional witch and the relationship between Hellboy and Alice is under-baked. None of the characters feels fresh, none of the dialogue sparkles. And that’s where Cosby’s script fails the creator and audience.
The film is out this week from Lionsgate Home Entertainment in the usual varieties. The Blu-ray presents the film in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio and has a strong high definition transfer. For a film like this, it has to look good to work on a home screen and this does not fail. The subtle colors and deep shadows are all nicely balanced. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is up the capturing every grunt, flicker of flame, and explosion. Watching this at home was rather good despite the content.
On the other hand, you can tell Lionsgate lost faith in the film by the dearth of special features. We get Tales of the Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn (1:11:28), a three-part featurette on the production; a handful of Deleted Scenes (7:56), and Previsualization (7:18).