Hellboy offers a radical new interpretation of the demon superhero created by Mike Mignola. Try not to compare it to the Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman films and you just might have a good and gory time.
That might sound difficult since the bar has been set very high, but Hellboy 2019 doesn’t attempt to match the earlier iterations; it’s closer to Mignola’s comic books in both look and attitude.
The tongue in cheek tone is established in the prologue, in which immortal sorceress Nimue (Milla Jovovich) – AKA the Blood Queen – is dismembered by King Arthur and Merlin. But of course you can’t keep evil incarnate down, and with help from a pig monster familiar (that looks like Bebop from TMNT), Niume pulls herself together and sets out to baptise the world in blood, starting with modern day London.
Enter Hellboy (David Harbour), a gregarious demon who was summoned during a Nazi occult ritual and adopted by the head of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, Professor Broom (Ian McShane). As the BPRD’s go-to guy when things get weird, the big red one discovers he may be the only one capable of halting the Blood Queen’s reign.
Where Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 film was a cocktail of Men in Black, Indiana Jones and H.P. Lovecraft, the reboot is a lot sillier, striving for the irreverent tone of Deadpool and taking its visual cues from Van Helsing and Underworld. Director Neil Marshall, whose impressive genre credentials include horror films The Descent and Dog Soldiers (as well as a couple of cracking Game of Thrones episodes), keeps the action cranked up and the wisecracks and blood flying (the gore is gleefully gratuitous – and R-rated – albeit cartoonish).
Perlman’s brooding Hellboy is a hard act to follow and Harbour does a decent job in delivering a more feral portrayal, despite being saddled with a lot of dud one liners. His Hellboy isn’t cramped by a relationship or locked away like a dirty secret – he’s off the leash and having a ball.
Fans of the comic books will find a lot to like in the new Hellboy, whereas devotees of the earlier films will beg to differ. It’s trashy in a good way and raises plenty of hell, but it also begs the question: why reboot the franchise when del Toro and Perlman have always been keen to make a third? Sometimes, it’s better the devil you know.
In cinemas: April 11
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane
Directed by: Neil Marshall