Guillermo del Toro got the ball rolling with Hellboy on screen in 2004. I really like that movie. But "Hellboy: The Golden Army," that is a movie that is the prime definition of a movie that was much better than it needed to be. It is easily one of my very favorite sequels. The summer of 2008 and was a money fest. So it was easily for less recognizable titles getting lost in the shuffle, but that is too bad, because that is a great, great sequel. It was weird, because del Toro set up a crazy story for a potential third movie. He also, roughly a year ago, put a Twitter poll allowing people to vote whether or not they wanted to see his third movie. Weird, because after his poll came back overwhelmingly in his favor, it was decided the whole series would be rebooted.
We got David Harbour stepping in for Ron Perlman. We got Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane and Sasha Lane. It certainly feels like a Hellboy movie. It has a dark sense of humor. It is shockingly violent in some parts, and eerily dark in others. I think there was potential to make an interesting Hellboy movie with this cast. But this new film commits the cardinal foul. It all feels like a big fat, "been there, done that."
It was the same problem I had when Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man 4" was halted at Sony and they rebooted the franchise with Marc Webb at the helm. Re-watch Raimi's film closely, and then watch the two films Webb made. Sam Raimi had a unique vision for his Spider-Man stories, and it looked like Webb was trying way too hard to imitate what had come before, even though his story was a reboot. If you watch all those movies in a row, it feels like the same universe, except the leads are different. That and well, "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies have a much worse quality to them.
That's how I feel when I watched Neill Marshall's "reboot" of "Hellboy." David Harbour looks way too much like Ron Perlman. I don't know if that was intentional. It couldn't be, this is a redo, so how could it be intentional? What's also weird is that Harbour seems to be trying too hard to channel Ron Perlman in his performance. He never takes the steps to make the character his own. Something that actually disappointed me, because Harbour is a great actor. The ritual that brought Hellboy to earth looks so similar to how it does in the first movie, that there is barely a difference. I am also convinced that the B.P.R.D. building from del Toro's franchise was reused in this franchise.
We've seen three different versions of Batman on film so far. In Michael Keaton's movies, Christian Bale's movies, and Ben Affleck's movie, even though the origin of Batman is the same, they all feel different. There is very little that separates this new Hellboy from the old, so why even reboot? Its like they don't even want to try. I wish this wasn't my only complaint though. The special effects on display are rancid, just terrible. Milla Jovovich is a beautiful woman, and she's given some memorable performances, but sometimes she can lose it. This is a time when she lost it, and I never thought she was a very convincing villain. Then there's the plot. My god, my god the plot. It tries to play so closely to what we saw in the 2004 film while also trying to do something different, and it ends up like a messy painting. There is such a tug-of-war going on that I can't believe this even got greenlit.
There was a big opportunity that was missed here, and it makes me sad. You'd think coming off an Oscar win, del Toro would have had the muscle to do what he wanted, to finish his "Hellboy" story. But I guess, sometimes those things don't work out. We are all poorer for it. This new "Hellboy" will not become a cult classic, del Toro's movies will. This will hit the bargain bin at Wal-Mart the second its released on bluray.
FINAL GRADE: D