Hellboy (2019): Concept Art in Film Form. A Positive Review.
Alright. I watched Hellboy (2019) by Neil Marshall.
First of all, I am not a fan of gore, and I don’t like it anymore than the average human. DOOM and MKX? That’s too much for me (doesn’t stop me from loving the Doom Lore, or playing MKX mobile). So, no, I am not a fan of how much gore there was— yes it’s that dark in the comics (even without specifically saying so), but implication goes a long way. I am fine with some gore, I have seen Repo: The Genetic Opera….twice now. And that level of gore was acceptable. I do vastly prefer gore to psychological horror. I’ve watched Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, and that’s a movie that I would never want to watch again because it was a mind trip. Psychological Horror is a greater bane of my sanity than blood ever will be.
A warning, the film is not for faint of heart. It’s….stimulating.
Now that we have that out of the way….
PLOT: HELLBOY makes perfect sense to me. I get that people who have never seen the comics are very lost (they introduce a new character every 10 minutes basically, with little to no explanation). It definitely feels like a sequel to a whole series of movies that came before. It side-steps this issue somewhat with copious use of flashbacks (that unfortunately makes little to no sense to people with little exposure to Hellboy comics, the Occult, or Old Wives’ Tales). I have to say that fans of the comics need not fear a lost of logic, or understanding of what the film is doing. You know your Hellboy lore and the film makes sense.
LOBSTER JOHNSON: Also Lobster Johnson! If the universe was fair, audiences would be cheering as loudly as when Captain America appeared in Infinity War. Alas, the universe is not fair, and most people probably blink their eyes and asked themselves, “Who the hell is that rando?”. But what a treat for the fans.
PACING: The intro took the effort to tell us what went down with Vivian Nimue, King Arthur and Merlin. And sped through it lightning fast. It was one of the most underwhelming intros to a film I have ever seen. I mean, MY GOD, I think the pacing issue was the most severe here.
HORROR DIRECTING: It’s very obvious Neil Marshall was experienced with directing horror. The entire film was shot from angles that was more reminiscent of horror movies than an action movie. Which, kind of actually makes sense? But Hellboy in the comics was more Noir I think. An action movie pretending to be horror based on Occult Pulp Detective Noir is….not working.
WEIRD CUTS: Several areas where there was a weird cut. Nothing that damages the continuity, but you do get the very obvious feelings that there was a jump in the same scene, and character positions teleported between one frame and the next (I don’t mean actually teleporting, which several characters did within the actual story because they have magic). Not a huge problem, but the fact that it’s obvious is not a good sign.
PROFESSOR BROOM IS ALIVE: Him being alive is probably the best decision in the entire film. Anchored the whole thing together. Actually, every actor did a fantastic job.
GOOD ACTING: There wasn’t bad acting here. But Hellboy’s character was a bit….odd.
OUT OF PLACE MORAL STRUGGLE: That is, the somewhat forced “am I a monster or a human” thing didn’t really come across properly, and it took him no time at all to decide that Nimue was evil? The hell?
ANTI-SEXY: Nobody asked to see the Baba Yaga kiss Hellboy. Nobody. Also surprising lack of nudity…like, gore is okay, but full frontal is bad? *rolls eyes* But given that Antichrist (2009) is the opposite of sex appeal, I very much agree that this is okay in a “horror” movie (except it’s not! It’s a pseudo-action movie— borderline an exploitation film).
TOXIC MASCULINITY(???): The weird subtext of “Man up, my whiny son” doesn’t really fly in 2019, but Professor Broom is a relic from WWII, so I guess he’s just old fashioned. In any case, it is assumed that the two have a deep and caring relationship underneath all the anger and mistakes (that was more told to us, rather than shown). Feels like a cop out for real philosophy or emotional content. Then again, I never expected one from the film.
EPIC IMAGERY: I will not run out of fan-art to try and draw. The Artbook, if it ever comes out, is probably a BETTER product than the film itself.
THE VERDICT: I like it. Ignoring the excessive gore, the film has decent acting, a straightforward but sensible plot, stays true to the comics’ universe (mostly), and provides enough fantastical imagery to form a hundred metal album covers. The fan-art potential is through the roof. If you need to ask yourself what you’re really buying into when you watch Hellboy, the answer is: You are buying a spectacle, an idea, a trailer for all that is awesome and mind blowing (and gory and disgusting). Something to inspire your mind to creative endeavours, like character design, or painting, and maybe you’d also blow off the dust on your secret stash of metal and rock albums and give it a go.
Film Critics are trying to critique it as if it is a stand-alone Hellboy movie, but it should be considered a companion to the comic books. Rather than simplifying a complex universe (and spreading it out into several films) for the general audience as MCU did, Hellboy just dived right in, and assumed you had, you know…read the comics.
It’s concept art in film form. It’s a death metal album in film form. But it is not…not really a great film.
Where should Hellboy go from here on out? Someone did suggest a Black & White Film was a good idea. Considering the comics was basically German Expressionism, I think that’s a brilliant idea. Perhaps an Indie Project. Something as unique and special as Hellboy should not stay dead.