Not Good Enough For A “Hell Yeah!”, Not Bad Enough For A “Hell No!”

220px-Hellboy_(2019)_theatrical_posterToday’s movie market appears to be dominated by comic book stories brought from page to screen, and remakes of films audiences have already loved. So it was inevitable that we would eventually get a remake of a comic book film. And, of course, one of my favourite comics/films is the first to fall victim.

I have mixed feelings about the new Hellboy movie. I both enjoyed it and was disappointed by it at the same time.

From the moment it was announced, I was worried (like many fans) that this remake would not live up to the standards Guillermo Del Torro has set for the  Hellboy cinematic universe. And as I watched casting announcements, although I was pleased with some of the choices, I soon realized my beloved Abe Sapien would not have a staring role in the remake as he had in the previous films. So basically I was prepared for this film to disappoint me fairly early on. Add to that the negative reviews pouring in upon the films release, and I went into this movie with fairly low expectations. And perhaps that’s why I ended up enjoying it – it was bad, but not quite as bad as I was bracing for.

Here is the main problem though: the Del Torro Hellboy films are so good and so well loved (especially by yours truly) that no matter how good a remake is, it is still doomed to fail.  From what I have seen online, a lot of fans had made up their Mind about Neil Marshall’s adaptation staring David Harbour before the movie even came close to being released into theatres.  It’s sad, but I feel as if the remake never stood a chance.

That’s not to say it didn’t try.  In what I’ll assume is an attempt to try to keep up with the current market, the soundtrack relies predominantly on rock songs, rather than orchestral scores.  And the film was shot with a R-rating in mind, which is certainly beneficial for the darker and more violent comics that are being made into movies.  So the filmmakers were at least trying to appeal to current audiences.  I also really liked the way the monstrous characters were treated differently compared to the Del Torro films.  Del Torro has a beautiful relationship with the monstrous, something that is evident in any of his films, and so his movie monsters have a unique quality to them.  They may look monstrous, but inside they are characters that audiences can really identify with in a deep and emotional way.  Whereas the monster’s in Marshall’s film seem to say “we’re here, we are what we are, we want what we want – deal with it”.  To portray the monstrous characters in this light certainly pairs better with an R-rating. It’s a different, perhaps less artistic, kind of connection and although we may understand the plight of characters like Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) we certainly can’t identify with someone who is so closed off and rough around the edges. But, unfortunately, even though there was clearly some effort put into this movie, it just wasn’t enough.

From the moment the film started, I knew something was wrong.  Visually, it was a well done scene, with the bright red of Nimue the Blood Queen’s (Milla Jovovich) cloak popping against a grey-toned world of the past.  But this prelude to the events of the film felt rushed.  In fact, everything about the film felt rushed.  And it wasn’t until well into the film that I began to figure out why this might be happening.  There was too much in the film.  This was both the best and worst part of the movie – there was just too much pulled from the comic books.

There were so many moments and so many characters from the comics that were presented on screen that the film became over saturated in Hellboy content.  The story needed some serious editing.  Since there was an apparent urge to fit as much as possible into the movie, the plot was rushed and weak, the script suffered because of the weak plot, and the acting suffered because of that.  It was a shame because with the R-rating, the team behind the film could have chosen just one moment from the comics to focus on, and made that one moment into an amazing film. Instead, it was watered down by too many characters and subplots.

However, as a fan, the lack of editing in the story was also kind of the best part.  It meant that I got to see so many characters who might never have made it onto the screen.  Del Torro’s films centered around a very small group of characters, where only the villains and side characters really changed between films.  Audiences and fans became very familiar with a small portion of the Hellboy universe in those previous films.  Marshall’s adaptation, however, gave us what seemed like more characters in that one film than both of Del Torro’s combined! Each flashback and side story was filled with character cameos that made the story a mess, but caused me to squeeze my fiancé’s hand with delight when certain characters appeared on screen.  Did we really need Baba Yaga (Troy James / Emma Tate)? Probably not, but I’m glad she was a part of it.  Was Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church) really necessary to the plot? Absolutely not.  But I adored seeing him in the film!  Honestly, we may never get a Lobster Johnson film, but I at least got a taste of what he could be on screen and I am ok with that. And that’s what makes the poor quality of the film even worse.  If this film had done well in theatres, we might have gotten a sequel, and that means Hellboy fans probably would have gotten to see even more characters from the comics pulled in.  There are still so many more characters that could have been brought to life on screen, but with the poor reviews it is unlikely that there will be a sequel.

Spoiler Ahead!

And the fact that there probably won’t be a sequel is particularly annoying for me because of the last scene of the film.  If you’ve read my previous posts, or seen some of my cosplay work, you’ll know exactly why I would re-watch this film a hundred times over just to get to that last scene.  I knew what was going to be in that tank before Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) even pointed it out.  And you can bet I started crying when the words “Ichthyo Sapien” became visible at the base of that tank.  So please, if you see this film, go in with low expectations and try to be pleasantly surprised.  And try to speak kindly of the film if you can – because I want to see a sequel with Abe Sapien in it!!!

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