They are now gone fifteen long years from the first feature film on Hellboy, character born from the comics of Mike Mignola, and in this 2019 full of cinecomics we see an infernal return of the big red boy on the big screen. This new Hellboy film iteration however does not represent the long-awaited closure of what was to be the trilogy directed by Guillermo Del Toro, but is instead a fresh start, a reboot which aims to create a new saga, and why not, also a HellboyVerso. The review is obviously without any spoilers on the plot, and the only elements to which we will refer will be the scenes seen in the trailers released before the day one.
Producers Lloyd Levin and Lawrence Gordon, the same as the first two Hellboys from Del Toro and Watchmen, decide to entrust the direction to Neil Marshall, director who made his bones with horror films that have become cult like The Descent - Descent into Darkness and who recently directed series episodes like Westworld, Hannibal, Black Sails and Game of Thrones, with which he also earned a nomination at the Emmys for the episode "The Watchers of the Wall", nicknamed the most cinematic episode in the series.
Between comics and film
The goal was to reinvent the series, trying to capture the most aspects bloody e horrorifici comics by Mignola, who was personally involved in writing the film's script. If in fact in the feature films of Del Toro the cartoonist was a simple one artistic consultant, in this reboot he takes on a central role in all phases of the creation of the film, even going so far as to declare that "It is not a new version of the character, it is theunique original".
The plot of the film is inspired by Hellboy Volume 9: The Wild Hunt, an anthology of the 2010 that contains the numbers 37 and 44 of the series, to this main strand are however connected also other under plots present in other volumes, together also with some new materials written specifically for the film. The line that we wanted to follow is therefore that of maximum fidelity to the paper work, so much so that many scenes and most of the dialogues are taken entirely from the comic.
What comes to mind is that perhaps we have chosen to launch a little too much on horror, which in some parts reaches peaks of gore that you wouldn't expect from a cinecomic. Sure, Hellboy he is not a hero for families of the conventional ones, but precisely because the comic has a noir and investigative mark, we would not have expected so many jumpscares and elements splatter. Being brave and aiming for a more adult target is obviously not a factor to be condemned without knowing the facts, but from the trailers full of gag and captivating music, perhaps not the high level of brutal violence present throughout the film.
The plot (WITHOUT SPOILER)
Sent to Mexico to recover a missing agent of the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense), Hellboy (David Harbor) finds himself involved in something greater, a prophecy that represents him as the one who will put an end to the human race. To prevent the apocalypse, the half-demon goes to England, where he has to deal with Nimue, the Queen of Blood (Milla Jovovich), a powerful witch defeated by King Arthur and who after 1500 years is resurrected in search of revenge. Nimue, however, establishes a relationship with Hellboy, relying on the doubts and uncertainties of the red hero, to corrupt him and try to take him to his side. It is therefore up to Hellboy to choose which side to take sides with, if with human who mock him and are scared of it, or with Nimue, who promises him a kingdom where he will be feared and respected.
The two hours of film flow without ever having dead moments, the rhythm is kept high from beginning to end, and indeed, perhaps even a little too much in the second part. If in fact in the first half the events follow one another in a clear and orderly manner, in the second half the film appears run to show as many things as possible. The feeling is like chasing a "final boss" that you can't reach despite it's always at hand. Everything is therefore reduced to a hammock from one end of England to the other in which the spectator is tossed to and fro.
David Harbor or Ron Pelman?
Since the announcement of the reboot and the choice of a new actor that he was going to play Hellboy, many of the fans who appreciated Del Toro's first two films, and who may have known comics thanks to them, wracked their noses. The character of the red devil on the big screen was in fact associated with Ron Perlman, and such a beloved interpretation would have been difficult to replace.
Fortunately David Harbour turned out to be up to the role, in every sense, given the two meters of the character. Recognized and appreciated as police chief Jim Hopper in Stranger Things, Harbor was pointed out by the same Mike Mignola as the perfect embodiment of his cartoon character. This is also due to the complex stage of make-up and costumes that went on every day of filming. Only the full face mask and suit took about two hours of work without pause to be applied, and the only piece of "real" skin of the actor in the whole film is the left hand, only painted red. We therefore let you imagine when the intricate fighting scenes of the film, choreographed by Markos Rounthwaite, stunt coordinator of films like Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Zombieland: Double Tap. And maybe the action scenes are the highest directorial point of the film, especially the fight against the Giants (of which we see a piece of the trailer) and the one in the last scene, shot with long sequence plans particularly inspired, on the contrary, instead of some moments in which with the almost botched cuts you change radically register during the scenes, breaking the rhythm in the middle of a shot.
And speaking of inspiration we cannot fail to mention the myriad of creatures mythological and fantastic that populate the world of Hellboy. Avoiding going into too much detail to get into any spoilers, you just need to know that the fantastic bestiary in this film is richer than ever. However if some creatures are obviously more cured, basically those with "masks" and not in pure CGI, the monsters made entirely in computer graphics sometimes they leave something to be desired if compared with those mentioned above. It is not so much the design of the same as the sin, but the actual realization of the CGI.
Before concluding, a small applause to the photography director Lorenzo Salvatore, Italian pride abroad, which has been able to give back a chromatic palette the most "comic strip" possible. When Hellboy appears in the frame it is the only red one used. When it is not framed, there is something else red, the fire, the costume of the Queen of Blood. All the rest of the colors are attenuated tertiary colors.
In conclusion, this new approach ad Hellboy more explicit and raw is what Mike Mignola himself wanted for the cinematographic transposition of his creation, so that's what older fans can find to be closer to comics. Despite this, the investigative and noir part of the paper work is sacrificed here to push more on film horror. David Harbour succeeds fully in the daunting task of bringing such a challenging character as the red devil to the big screen, collecting the legacy of Ron Perlman, but reinventing our beloved Red, a rejected hero and marked by a profound conflict, who is not necessarily driven by good things or deep ideals, but who can still save those he cares about, in one way or another.
Hellboy, directed by Neil Marshall, with David Harbor, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, and Thomas Haden Church will be released in Italian theaters distributed by M2 pictures11 April 2019 in world premiere, while in the United States and the rest of the world it will be distributed starting from the 12 April.