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'A grotesque misfire': Hellboy reboot gets some hellish reviews

By George Stark
David Harbour in Hellboy

Oh dear, the reviews are in for Neil Marshall's reboot of Hellboy, and they’re not looking so hot. There’s been much anticipation around the project, particularly from Stranger Things star David Harbour, who has taken the horns from Ron Perlman, and teased us way back in 2017 by comparing his take on the character to Shakespeare.

However, it’s no exaggeration to say that in the 11 years since the last Hellboy film came to theaters -- 2008's Hellboy II: The Golden Army -- the cinematic superhero landscape has changed dramatically, and the stakes are higher than ever.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this version -- which was switched to an R-rated reboot once Marshall was hired -- isn't landing well in terms of early reviews. In fact, it seems that movie critics have the knives (and all the hellish puns) out to kill it.

The main gripe appears to be that this time around there's a lot lacking in the script in terms of plot believability, pacing, and humor --- which has been swapped for a helluva lot more bloody violence.

Johnny Oleksinski, writing in the New York Post, called the film a "grotesque misfire" and, worse, an "awful, disgusting, unfunny, idiotically plotted comic book flick [that] offends the senses as much as the rankest subway car on the hottest summer day."

The review adds that while Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro added substance to the original film, the reboot has been "turned into a sludge-colored Resident Evil wannabe by his successor Neil Marshall."

The Hollywood Reporter's review raises the question whether fans were really asking for a reboot of Mike Mignola's classic comic book antihero in the first place, considering it had been so perfectly done in 2004 and 2008 already.

The review explains that the film "isn't lousy because nobody wants it, nor only because it fails to live up to both its big-screen and printed predecessors. It's just lousy. Bloated, vastly less funny than it aims to be and misguided in key design choices."

IGN's review notes that while the story attempts to be more faithful to the comics than del Toro's movies were, it ends up feeling like a "comic book salad," with "various ideas and concepts from the books cut out and pasted together ransom note-style."

Brian Truitt, writing for USA TODAY, called Harbour "hit-and-miss" in his role as Big Red, saying: "Though he's got the character's irascible, hangdog nature down at least. This Hellboy is a leaky faucet of one-liners: Some are clever and land perfectly, while with others, he’s the only one laughing."

The A.V. Club's Katie Rife also bemoaned the film's one-liners, highlighting that the script was written by just one person, Andrew Cosby, which is quite unusual for a would-be comic book blockbuster. Rife concluded that the end result of the movie is "less a thrilling adventure tale than a trip to a teenager’s messy, sock-strewn bedroom."

Scott Mendelson's review for Forbes claims the film's violence "approaches Starship Troopers levels of gore on a near-constant basis" that has "no weight and no sting," saying: "What we get is action for the sake of action, violence for the sake of violence, with barely even a narrative clothesline to act as connective tissue."

The Los Angeles Times hailed Hellboy's return as "gory, nasty and largely pointless" in another damning critique.

CBR's review complains that the biggest flaw of the movie is that everything in it feels "haphazardly jumbled together," adding: "Hellboy even makes a joke about wanting a more personal and relatable apocalypse. If the film could have accomplished that, then the bonkers visuals could have been grounded in real stakes."

On the plus side, the reviewer adds that while it may be "incredibly weird and poorly written," the film is never boring. So there's that.

And of course, not everyone is hating it. Vince Mancini at Uproxx called it a "gloriously silly, gratuitously gory, satanic thrash metal poster come to life," which ... er ... certainly seems like something the producers should put on the actual poster.

Despite the bashings from critics, we’re definitely still going to check it out. But whether that's at the cinema this week or waiting until it comes to a streaming device is a whole other thing.

How about you? Have these hellish reviews put you off from seeing the new Hellboy? Tell us about it in the underworld, aka the comments section below.