In Defense of Hellboy: Neil Marshall’s Hard R Take is a Gory, Blood Soaked Blast

If the vast majority of critics are to be believed the new adaptation of Mike Mignola’s seminal comic creation Hellboy, directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) is a film that should be filed away and forgotten. It is a mindless, soulless aberration that doesn’t even really deserve to be discussed. It isn’t Guillermo del Toro’s long-hoped-for trilogy capper, so it’s better off not existing at all. Besides, everyone knows that comic book adaptations could never possibly have more than one adaptation, iteration, tone, or style. All this begs the question, why am I wasting my precious time left on this planet writing about the new Neil Marshall Hellboy film? The answer to that is quite simple. It’s a damn fun film and you’re missing out by ignoring it.

Starting in 2004, Guillermo del Toro made two Hellboy films. The titular first, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). These were beautiful works of art from one of the greatest living filmmakers on the planet, genre or otherwise. Del Toro’s Hellboy films created a huge world full of magical creatures and misunderstood monsters. It was and still is a shame that the third film in Del Toro’s trilogy fell through. That being said, those issues should not cause you to pre-judge a film based on a grudge you have that a film (for whatever reason) didn’t get made. I will forever be sad that Guillermo Del Toro’s third Hellboy film never came to be.

Hellboy (David Harbour) rushes into action to save the world from monsters and demons.

This article has nothing to do with those films. This is about a brand-new kick-ass, hard R horror influenced blood soaked movie playing at your local multiplex right now. Neil Marshall does not reboot Giullermo Del Toro’s film. He is starting completely from scratch. There is little to no resemblance beyond the obvious between the two takes on the franchise. Is it mindless, as many have called this new Hellboy? You’re godamn right it is, and mindless is exactly why it is such a blast. Mindless is not the same thing as stupid. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with going to the multiplex to escape from the madness of every day. What it lacks in brains it more than makes up for in brawns and brutal spectacle.

There isn’t much that’s beautiful in Neil Marshall’s Hellboy, but he isn’t exactly a director that is known for creating beautiful gothic fairy tales like the franchise’s predecessor. This is the man who has given us such horror classics as The Descent and Dog Soldiers. He helmed hard R action films Doomsday and Centurion, not to mention the “Blackwater” and “The Watchers on the Wall” episodes of Game of Thrones. No, this Hellboy revels in the ugly. He is, after all, the son of the fallen one who is prophesied to end all of mankind and bring forth an age of darkness and Hell on Earth. Marshall’s murky style combined with his signature flair for action and an amazing pantheon of terrifying monsters made him the perfect man to bring this hard R Hellboy to life.

Milla Jovovich shines as the Blood Queen in Neil Marshall

The original title for the film was Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. I really wish they would have kept that title because it gives props to Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element)’s badass performance as said queen. She’s an ancient evil that was responsible for the bubonic plague before King Arthur and Merlin themselves hack her to pieces and bury each part of her body in hidden graves across Britain. Flash forward to the present day and the Blood Queen’s minions have been scouring Britain putting her back together piece by piece, Frankenstein style. She wishes to seduce and mate with the Hellboy (David Harbour) to fulfill the ancient prophecy that sees them ruling side by side in a world soaked with human blood.

The only problem with this is even though Hellboy himself was conjured by the Nazis in 1943 in a last bid to conquer the world during World War II, they were thwarted by the B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), specifically by Professor Broom (Ian McShane) and Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church) in a really cool cameo. Well, that’s one problem, the other being that our Hellboy doesn’t want to kill all the humans and bathe in their blood, even if deep down he can’t help but be tempted to wield the power he was born with. He is half human and raised by Professor Broom, working for and in the confines of the B.P.R.D. itself.

All caught up to speed? Don’t worry about it. All you really need to know is it’s time to buckle your seatbelts because you are in for one hell of a ride. I heard one critic say that this was a film made for the Fangoria crowd. This wasn’t meant in a bad way and they could not have been more correct. This is a monster movie for horror-action fans. Hellboy revels in its grossness, happy to let blood cover every surface of the room. There’s also a brand new crazy cool monster awaiting Hellboy behind every corner and around every single turn.

With the help of a whole new team in Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Daniel Dae Kim (Ben Damio), our spawn of Satan is ready to save the world, one blood spattered monster slaying at a time. Fighting vampires in wrestling rings wearing luchadore masks? Check. Taking on three giants in the British countryside at once? Check. Getting kissed on the mouth by Baba Yaga, one of the scariest creature creations ever committed to film? Check. Hellboy never lets up. Just when I thought it was safe to relax for a second and catch my breath another monster straight from Hell or some other dimension would pop up and drag me down into the action again.

If a film can be measured simply by how good of a time I have then Hellboy (2019) is an absolute trashterpiece! Any concerns of how David Harbour (Stranger Things, Suicide Squad) was going to look from some of the early trailers (the first was especially bad), he will admittedly never be as memorable as Ron Pearlman…but I think he actually gives a more comic accurate performance. This new one can be called an origin story but it feels way more like a coming-of-age-story for our boy from Hell. Nothing about this film takes itself too seriously so it’s easy to forgive many of its shortcomings, like the over reliance on exposition.

The cast is aces. I though Milla Jovovich did some of her very best work as the (original) titular Blood Queen.  I absolutely loved Sasha Lane (American Honey) as Alice and hope to see more of her in future work. As always, Ian McShane (Deadwood, American Gods) is absolutely perfect. Most of the small problems I had with the film came down (aside from one character death) to some of the CGI not working very well, but it isn’t bad enough to pull you out of the story. There’s absolutely no social value to this movie, and I mean that in the best way. It also sets up a world at the end that I will be crossing my fingers, hoping that we come back to. It’s a gory, bloody action-packed hard R blast of escapism. In a world as crazy as ours is in 2019, why do we turn our noses up at a good time?

Written by steve wandling

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  1. I dunno how could it not be highly or, at least, reasonably successful – it’s beyond my understanding. I think it’s really good, kinda bombastic action/horror with a lot of humor. I really liked it.

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