[Review] Hellboy: Big Boy, Bigger Daddy Issues

by Darryl Goh

April is a great month for comic book fans, with 3 movies from the top 3 publishing houses gracing the silver screen: Avengers: Endgame (Marvel), Shazam (DC), and Hellboy (Dark Horse).

While the Hellboy (David Harbour of Stranger Things) reboot was largely panned by critics unlike the its predecessors from a decade ago, and is likely to be dwarfed by box office competition, here is why we need to give Hellboy a shot. In a time when people are questioning if audiences are developing superhero movie fatigue, Hellboy is a palette refresher in the ever-growing mountain of predictable, checklist-ed superhero flicks.

Part of this film’s uniqueness is owed to Hellboy’s unique lineage and therefore destiny. Hellboy, in all his devilish (good?) looks, works diligently as an agent at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, but is mistrusted because of a prophecy about him bringing about doomsday. When mankind’s enemies reach out to him, promising him a royal life he deserves, he has to choose which side to fight for.

It is easy to see the dilemma Hellboy faces, especially in light of sabotage attempts and arguments he has with his surrogate father Professor Broom (Ian McShane). Nimue, the Blood Queen (Mila Jovovich) might be a stereotypical big bad, but she does make an effort to justify a Hellboy-Nimue alliance. Hellboy’s happy-go-lucky personality is the highlight of the movie, and his witty humour shows when he makes pop culture references effortlessly.

However, the film fails spectacularly at pacing. Within a few minutes, we can travel to multiple locations and time periods, accompanied by huge on-screen words of where/when we are at. The metal music only makes for a nauseating roller coaster ride.

Many supporting characters are lacklustre as well, the result of weak subplots and awkward transitions. Some characters show up only to point Hellboy to the next location and die thereafter – a wasted opportunity to showcase the rich heritage of characters in the Hellboy universe.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the film’s philosophical exploration of Hellboy’s destiny and purpose, and David Harbour’s wonderful performance of Hellboy sold the idea of a superhero in an identity crisis.

There will be two versions of Hellboy screened in Singapore: an M18, and a PG13 version which has a script that is less vulgar; some characters substitute profanities with harmless words. Gore scenes were exciting during the PG13 version at the premiere; seeing Nimue crush a body like a plastic bottle sent chills down my spine.

Hellboy is by no means a polished gem of a movie, but it is a good attempt at deviating from the current formula of a superhero flick which you might just find refreshing to watch. Three out of five pitchforks!