Despite what you may have heard, this latest iteration of Mike Mignola’s hard drinkin’, skull crackin’ agent of the BPRD isn’t actually THAT horrendously awful, however what it ALSO isn’t is a third instalment of Guillermo Del Toro’s series of Hellboy movies.
Trading in Del Toro’s whimsical slapstick for a more smash mouth, gore splattered look makes a certain amount of sense from a practical point of view as with a new direction, a new tone is needed but unfortunately going aggressively low brow wasn’t the way to go. Which is a shame, because when done right and especially when everyone is on the same page, low brow can make for a fun, exhilarating and nastily hilarious viewing.
And you know what, for it’s first third Hellboy 2.0 does exactly that, ricocheting us wildly between luchador vampires and Giant hunts with reckless energy. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and if the storytelling was anymore jagged you could catch tetanus from it, but it also isn’t dull…. until it is. As the film bulldozes ever forward with all the energy and clumsiness of a 300lb teenager on a Redbull binge, the movie assaults us with bizarre image after bizarre image, never seemingly intending to pause for breath and therefore leaving the audience bewildered as the next in-joke from the comics flies by as fast as you can say Lobster Johnson. On top of this the film bludgeons you repeatedly – much like it’s hero’s stone hand – with it’s sheer amount of exposition until all you can feel is apathy.
However, one saving grace is David Harbour’s more beastial looking Hellboy, doing his best to try to overcome the sizable “Not Ron Pearlman” curse (and not entirely succeeding, but hey, it IS Ron Pearlman after all…), his world weary, abrasive manner carries you through the worst of it far better than the rest of the “human” cast does. For example Milla Jovovich’s villainous Blood Queen is increasingly bland when compared to a Stephen Graham voiced, whining pig monster or contorting witch Baba Yaga who owns a nice line in chicken legged houses.
The most bittersweet aspect of this whole enterprise is director Neil Marshall getting such a vast canvas to play with and then having it all rushed out in a vast amorphous blob of imagery. A fan of his since his impressive double threat debut of Dog Soldiers and The Descent he wears his influences heavily on his sleeve with everything from Lovecraft, Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood, Silent Hill and even Evil Dead 2 being referenced freely and impressively but the blistering pace renders it all a claret spraying blur.
huge swing an a miss from Hellboy’s massive stone whammer, Harbour’s likability ironically leaves him the only one present who isn’t left red faced by the whole messy enterprise.
Maybe the devil made them do it…