R rating doesn’t upgrade this tiresome comic book movie

R rating doesn’t upgrade this tiresome comic book movie

The “Hellboy” reboot has more gore and profanity than the original, but that doesn’t make it better.

By Alan Zilberman / Special to the Washington Post

Sometimes “more adult” does not mean “more mature.” That’s the central problem facing “Hellboy,” the reboot of the comic book character popularized in films by Guillermo del Toro.

The original 2004 movie and its 2008 sequel were PG-13 affairs, with a focus on the demonic antihero’s lovable streak. Under the direction of Neil Marshall, a filmmaker with his own horror/fantasy bona fides, this Hellboy curses, eviscerates, flays and disembowels. Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby went overboard with their R-rating, introducing so much gore and profanity that it, quite frankly, gets dull. The flat performances and incoherent story do not help matters.

Created by Mike Mignola in 1993, Hellboy is a literal demon from hell who lives on Earth. As part of a paranormal government agency, he fights for the good guys, keeping other monsters from wreaking havoc. Ron Perlman played Hellboy in the del Toro films, and here David Harbour – best known as Chief Hopper from Netflix’s “Stranger Things” – takes over. The two actors look similar in their heavy makeup, complete with red skin and devil horns filed down to stumps, and they have similar evil plots to overturn.

This time Hellboy faces off against the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a witch who wants revenge on mankind. Along his quest to defeat her, Hellboy uncovers a secret from his past (of course he does). Cosby hardly wavers from the typical comic book formula, right down to cheesy jokes and a final showdown.

Marshall is best known for directing the horror thriller “The Descent” and two memorable, battle-filled “Game of Thrones” episodes, so he clearly knows how to evoke epic scale on a limited budget. “Hellboy” hints at that sense of spectacle, like when he fights three famished giants in an open field. The characters move and clash with plausible heft, and there is an affable slapstick quality to the fight, even if it ends gruesomely. But for each imaginative sequence, there is a repetitive scene with little sense of imagination or surprise.

At one point, Hellboy and his colleagues must fight zombies bursting out of the ground. The actors seem to realize this scene is just filler, so any potential energy or excitement is lost. There are some throwaway gross-out moments, such as when gigantic demons lay siege to London and a point-legged one impales several innocent bystanders like a kebab. But the funny thing about overabundant gore is that it loses its potential for shock when viscera is more common than anything suspenseful.

One way to overcome a dearth of memorable action is through memorable characters, but the film also fails on that front. As a literal demon on Earth, Hellboy is torn between humanity and the underworld, and Harbour cannot sell that anxiety. His dramatic scenes fall curiously flat, and his comic one-liners inspire little more than stony silence. Unsurprisingly, the only actor who elevates the material is Ian McShane, who plays Hellboy’s adoptive father. His droll delivery suggests he is the only actor with any self-awareness, although he plays a similar character in the “John Wick” films with more wicked fun.

If anything, “Hellboy” is a testament to del Toro’s talents as a filmmaker. Through evocative creatures and production design, he created a more inventive world than what we typically see from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or its DC equivalent. There is a moment in this new film when Hellboy regrows his horns, wielding a fiery sword as he rides a huge beast and vanquishes the damned on hell’s surface. If a film’s best attempt at over-the-top imagery inspires little more than a halfhearted shrug, something has gone terribly wrong.

“Hellboy” (1½ stars)

An R rating doesn’t make this comic book movie more adult. It’s as boring and stupid as ever, only with a lot more gore and violence.

Rating: R, see above.

Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

Talk to us

More in Life

Caption: The eternal fragrance of bath products triggers memories from long ago. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Bath product fragrances are full of memories

A Costco-size bottle of Neutrogena Rainbath takes the author back to the carefree days of seventh grade

In Turkey, it's easy to meet locals in a mosque and learn more about Islam.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Experiencing Islamic traditions in Turkey

Ramadan is perhaps the best time to travel to the country where the Islamic world meets the Christian world.

These tips can help you nurture a positive outlook on life

No one likes to be negative. Yet some adults can’t help but see their cup as half full.

Hey, Chase Sapphire Reserve, where’s my $15,194?

Judy Lambert files an insurance claim with her Chase Sapphire Reserve card after canceling her snorkeling trip to Cuba. But, four months later, she’s still waiting for her $15,194 check. Will she ever see the money?

2022 Infiniti QX55 Essential AWD (Infiniti)
2022 Infiniti QX55 Essential AWD

Globally, QX55 will be offered in up to three grade levels, LUXE, ESSENTIAL, and SENSORY.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE (Toyota)
2022 Toyota Corolla Cross XLE

The surprising cargo capacity gives it the versatility to accommodate life’s diverse adventures.

Garden gnomes and vintage trucks make fabulous yard art -- though the truck may be difficult to gift wrap.
Steve Smith’s gift ideas for your favorite gardener

They range from the down-to-earth practical (garden tools) to the purely decorative (garden art).

Erica × darleyensis ‘White Perfection'. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Erica × darleyensis ‘White Perfection’

What: Erica × darleyensis ‘White Perfection’, commonly called White Perfection Darley heath… Continue reading

The Gothard Sisters
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Gothard Sisters’ annual Celtic Christmas show is set for Dec. 8 in Edmonds. Plus loads of other Christmas entertainment.

Most Read