Imagine if instead of making The Return of the King, New Line had started a new Lord of the Rings trilogy, featuring Milla Jovovich and a song by Muse. That’s the giant stone fist dealt to the faces of Hellboy fans this month, in a reboot that sees the big red demi-demon (David Harbour) ensuring an evil sorceress (Jovovich) “doesn’t come back for the sequel” as clairvoyant Alice (Sasha Lane) quips, making you sincerely doubt her powers.
Abandoning the joys of Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman’s infernal incarnation, Neil Marshall aims for somewhere around the Resident Evil meets Suicide Squad mark and unfortunately succeeds, delivering two interminable hours of mindless violence and ugly video game graphics. If you were to remove the CGI it would just be a man in a Hellboy costume jogging around an English river bank, and therefore more entertaining.
Although he makes a decent fist of it, Harbour is left at sea by a script that’s as leaden as his arm (I’m sure I heard someone say “a plague is heading towards the EU”) and no plot to speak of, where the only sympathetic moment is when Alice gets a “psychic migraine.” Same. The heart, imagination and production design of Del Toro’s versions are traded for sweary non-jokes and tedious action seemingly designed for people who think the Underworld films are cool: no one.
The only redeeming features are the fact that a brief shot of a TV screen means Ainsley Harriott has technically appeared in a Hellboy movie, the use of Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare, and the possibility that this failure will force the studio to return to the original trilogy and pretend this never happened because that’s a thing that happens now. Maybe that was Marshall’s plan all along; make a movie so senseless it brings the execs to their senses.
Also embarrassing themselves are Ian McShane, Stephen Graham and Daniel Dae Kim from Lost, which is exactly what this film has done with tens of millions of dollars. You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see that concluding a trilogy with an in-built audience will be more profitable than starting a new one without so much as a big name involved. It’s a masterclass in pleasing no one; the fans get no closure, the studio gets foreclosure. Red faces all round.