Hellboy came out this weekend and… well, let’s just say reviews are mixed. There are some definite structural problems that knock it down from the same level as Shazam! and Captain Marvel, both of which are still in theaters. Still, there’s some awesome acting and a few really solid artistic choices that do make it worth the price of admission.
The main failing of Hellboy is structure. It’s set out much like a comic book plot-wise. There are frequent side stories and flashbacks and fast transitions. In a book that works fine. On screen, though, it can be confusing in places. Scenes that really deserve a few more beats get cut short or muddied, and many side threads don’t get fully explained or get explained so late that it’s hard to make connections. Following along does get easier as the movie goes on.
There’s a few great actors mixed in with the Overly Serious Supporting Cast. Ian McShane as Professor Broom is his usual awesome self; he’s always fun to watch. David Harbour really goes for it as Hellboy. Sasha Lane gave Alice more spark than most sidekicks get (I wanted more of her friendly snark!). Hellboy and Alice have a really engaging dynamic that lightens up parts that would otherwise have been a little overly melodramatic.
The prosthetics were a lot of fun. I like that Hellboy’s horns could be filed on screen, and his skin and wounds read well from all angles. Nimue’s sewn-together flesh looked great. The makeup effects were so good that I’m actually annoyed by how much CGI was used for other characters. For example, Baba Yaga wasn’t even scary, she was just a hot mess of pixels most of the time. Not fun.
It’s also a problem that half the actors seem to think they’re doing a Super Serious Comic Movie and the other half are coming in with the sense of humor Mike Mignola worked into the comics. Milla Jovovich needed to be just a little more over the top while other characters needed to tone things down a little. Director Neil Marshall seems to have struggled with creating a consistent mood (on top of controlling the pacing).
This might sound like I hated Hellboy, but I didn’t. I had a great time. That’s kind of the point of this review. Comic movies can be bad and also fun.
Over the last few years we as comic fans have been gloriously spoiled. Most of the MCU manages to be incredible both from a geeky and an artistic perspective. DC has been stepping up their game (in case you missed it, Shazam! was a riot). It’s awesome that the film industry is taking comic books so seriously. At the same time, if we rip apart anything that falls short of pure art we’re putting an artificial barrier in front of other stories we’d like to see on screen.
That’s why Hellboy deserves a little more love. For all its faults, it was fun to watch. I had a better time than I did at Justice League or Batman V Superman, because despite its issues Hellboy didn’t forget to be entertaining.
At the end of the day, that’s the whole point of a movie.
Have you seen Hellboy? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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