Lionsgate faced a rather interesting scenario with its Hellboy reboot earlier this year. Had the movie released without any big-screen precursor before it, it might’ve stood a better chance. However, in the face of the far superior Del Toro films (with Ron Perlman in the lead role), it faced a real uphill struggle, even with an R rating.
As a result, it bombed at the box office, and now the studio hopes it’ll find a second life on home video. Based on this release, it’s got outstanding quality behind it, although the movie itself doesn’t have the greatest of foundations.
The film follows a younger version of the hero (played by Stranger Things’ David Harbour) as he faces off against a resurrected Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich). Lending him a hand is his adoptive “dad”, Trevor Bruttenhome (Ian McShane), part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. And also backing him up are Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), each with their own exceptional gifts.
The movie itself has a good dose of action – and with a decent amount of big-screen carnage. But that can’t make up for Hellboy’s lacking story, which jumps all over the place. There are some fun moments here, particularly with the Thomas Haden Church’s Lobster Johnson. But they end up fizzling out over a somewhat weakened second half and lame finale.
It doesn’t help that the performances can’t find focus. McShane is a class act and does what he can with the material, though there’s not much to work with. And Jovovich, bless her, hams it up the best she can, but can’t find the right tone as Nimue. And Lane and Dae Kim’s characters feel like afterthoughts. That’s a bit of a shame when you consider how great Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman were in the previous films.
The movie isn’t completely without merit. Harbour does pretty good as Hellboy. What he lacks in Ron Perlman’s charisma, he makes up for with raw strength and great delivery. And I couldn’t help but chuckle at Church’s representation of Lobster, as brief as it is.
Had Hellboy included more of a fun story closer in tone to Mike Mignola’s comic, it would’ve really taken off. But its results are all over the map, leaving the actors struggling to try and keep up. It’s not the worst comic adaptation out there, but it can’t hold a torch to Del Toro’s previous work. It’s “junk food,” at best, though some fans may prefer a fine steak.
Both a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray and regular Blu-Ray are provided with the Hellboy package, along with a digital copy (which could not be redeemed at time of review). Save for a couple of darker scenes (in Baba Yaga’s home), the movie has a very strong picture for the most part. Colors are wonderfully captured throughout, particularly near the end with the post-apocalyptic London setting. The visuals are sharp in 4K format, and you can really see the detail put into Harbour’s make-up work. And some of the visual effects really shine here too, though Dae Kim’s transformations do look cheesy. Overall, the texture work is really impressive. The 1080p transfer on the general Blu-Ray is very nice too, if you prefer to take the route with that version of the film.
As much as Hellboy may be lacking in storytelling, it’s certainly not missing anything in terms of audio. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is very well represented with the surround quality on the disc here, particularly with the ending themes. And the sound effects are strong, particularly with the Baba Yaga confrontation. Atmospheric work is also well done with some of the indoor scenes and in London as well. And the dialogue is fairly easy to hear, mind when some characters are speaking in a quiet manner.
The Special Features
Since Hellboy wasn’t the hit that Lionsgate was envisioning, they didn’t exactly pack it on with extras. Still, it’s hardly bare bones.
First up are a few deleted scenes. They don’t provide a heaping amount of context to the film, but it’s interesting to see what got left out. Their quality is pretty nice, and they’re well worth a look if you’re a fan of the film. We won’t spoil what happens here.
Next up is Previsualization. This sets up how some scenes were put together via storyboards. This is generally a feature that shows the preparation of particular sequences, and how they came to be. It’s more of an education feature if nothing else, but pretty neat for those that study that sort of thing.
Finally, Tales of the Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn is the big feature. Clocking it at just over 70 minutes, it serves as a huge “making of” feature for the film. It explains why a reboot needed to be made. It talks to several cast and principal crew members, along with Mignola. It’s good stuff if you’re a fan of the film, and may answer a few of those “aching questions” about its creation.
Hellboy’s 2019 version isn’t going to win many people over. Some of the performances are a hoot, and its tone isn’t nearly as bad as a few critics say. But its story lacks focus. And it also doesn’t have the level of quality of Del Toro’s films, not by a long shot. But it makes for fun, “mindless” viewing for those into that sort of thing, particularly if you’re a David Harbour fan. Its audio and video quality is excellent. On top of that, its extras are impressive, and dig into the lore of Hellboy. If you’re a fan, dig in. If not, well, Hellboy II: The Golden Army on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray is available for a slightly lower price.
OVERALL RATING: 3/5
Hellboy releases on 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray on July 23. It’s currently available now on Digital HD.