Based on the Dark Horse comics by Mike Mignola, Hellboy sees the legendary half-demon superhero (David Harbour, Stranger Things)called to the English countryside to battle a trio of rampaging giants when he soon discovers that the ultimate evil, The Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil), is returning to avenge her past. All of a sudden, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge with the hope that he doesn’t accidentally trigger the end of the world in the process.
Directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent), Hellbo serves as the return of the lovable half-demon caught between two worlds who we met previously in two cult favourite films from the mind of Guillermo Del Toro. With Del Toro struggling to get a third film in his planned trilogy made due differing visions, the production team opted for Hellboy’s resurrection to become a hard reboot.
And ‘hard reboot’ isn’t an exaggeration. Fans of Del Toro’s films should know that this incarnation of the hornless beast is definitely an R-rated take on the property, with all the blood and gore that comes with that. (While that’s not a shock by any stretch, it’s worth noting that given that Del Toro’s films were comfortable in PG-13 territory.) Marshall’s film has no problem unleashing the beast (so to speak) but keeps the Big Lug’s trademark humour in the process. David Harbour brings a humility and inner conflict to his character that brings him to life in a relatable way. Moreover, while Milla Jovovich’s Blood Queen doesn’t have the same emotional depth to her as our titular hero, she clearly relishes the chance to play the epitome of evil and attacks her role with a devilish glee.
In the midst of the blood and gore, there’s a charm to this vision of Hellboy that carries throughout the film. Burdened by a toxic relationship with his father (Ian McShane, John Wick), Hellboy is a man trapped between two worlds. Feeling that he doesn’t belong amongst the humans due to his demonic nature, he’s also committed to being a part of mankind. He wants to belong. Whether it’s shaving his horns down to the nubs or wearing a trenchcoat to blend in to the crowd, Hellboy wishes to break free from his demonic nature and live a peaceful life amongst those around him. Carrying the weight of his inner darkness around like a millstone around his neck, he yearns to be accepted but can’t seem to find where he belongs.
Though he is tempted to unleash his inner beast, Hellboy’s humanity is what draws him to do good. In some ways, one might consider this ironic given mankind’s tendency to do evil in the world as they serve their own interests. Still, in contrast to the devil inside Hellboy, his humanity is what has given him the desire to do the right thing. In the face of unimaginable evil, Hellboy wants to stand up for those who cannot. He’s broken… but he also wants to be better than the way that others view him. Better than how he views himself. For Hellboy, redemption is about owning the past and setting things right in the future.
WhileHellboyisn’t for everyone, he has a following that will be excited about what Marshall brings to the table. Similar to his Dark Horse comic roots, this incarnation of the beastie balances humour with horror in a (bizarrely?) endearing manner. Still, the most appealing thing about the film isn’t the gore or the special effects. At its heart, Hellboyis really about one (half-)man’s desire to be more than the sum (or the sins) of his past.
Hellboy unleashes in theatres on Friday, April 12th.
To hear audio of our time with stars David Harbour and Milla Jovovich, click here.