The new Hellboy film comes more than a decade after Guillermo del Toro had his final say with the character. While comparisons between the reboot and the originals were inevitable, the early word isn’t good. It sounds like new director Neil Marshall can’t hold a candle to del Toro’s earlier work. The first reviews for Marshall’s film have begun to show up. Sadly, these Hellboy reactions paint a less-than-flattering portrait of Big Red’s theatrical comeback.
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman took aim at the film’s overabundance of plot threads, likening the finished product to a “dark Cuisinart of a movie.” Overall, he dismissed the reboot as “a pile of origin-story gobbledygook, frenetic and undercooked, full of limb-hacking, eye-gouging monster battles as well as an atmosphere of apocalyptic grunge that signifies next to nothing.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich believed the movie wasted its R-rating on “the doofiest kind of maturity: boring CGI bloodsprays, F-bombs galore.” He acknowledged that “gorehounds will appreciate a couple gruesome set pieces,” but “too much of the film is just bland cloudy-grim action set to lightweight metal machine music. At pivotal moments, the special effects can turn laughably bad.”
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io9’s Charles Pulliam-Moore felt the film relied too heavily on expository dialogue. Specifically, “because Hellboy’s a film that abhors the idea of showing us things and would rather have characters explain them in order to move on to the next, blood-soaked, lifeless scene, we don’t actually see much of Bruttenholm and Hellboy’s father/son dynamic. Instead, the film’s much more focused on beating you over the head with a selection of greatest hits moments from the Hellboy comics, hoping that you’ll get so swept up in the blood and gore that you mistakenly think you’re having a good time.”
According to Brandon Zachary of CBR, “The biggest flaw of Hellboy is that, beyond the fantasy vignettes and music video action sequences, everything is haphazardly jumbled together. The film admittedly goes to unexpected places for viewers who haven’t read the comic books…But the script isn’t strong enough to make those concepts believable, even within a universe that includes baby-stealing fairies. The twists and turns just sort of happen, regardless of what the narrative would suggest.”
Eric Kohn of IndieWire called the film “a bloodier, sillier remix of the earlier entries in this unlikely franchise.” He also lambasted the repetitiveness of the movie’s fight scenes. “Hellboy deserves points for the sheer gall of its absurd showdowns… But by the time we see massive, sinewy monstrosities march across Europe to destroy national landmarks, the routine has grown tedious.”
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ScreenRant’s Molly Freeman felt that the movie “suffers from pacing issues that may arise directly from so closely adapting the comics. Despite a potentially compelling lead, Hellboy is a surprisingly boring superhero epic that drags between sequences of fantasy action spectacle.”
Writing for /Film, Josh Spiegel offered the most blunt take of all. His review calls Hellboy “One of The Worst Comic Book Movies Ever Made.” The culprit? Andrew Cosby’s mirthless script. “The setup in Andrew Cosby’s script, and some of the ideas hinted at throughout, is not the problem. The execution of that setup, and the exploration of those ideas, is where things start to go wrong. Having Hellboy crack wise constantly is all well and good; better to have a sense of humor than go dark. But it’s hard to remember a film that is so consistently, aggressively unfunny as this Hellboy.”
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