A general rule of thumb when it comes to movie making — the opening scene should set the tone for the rest of the story. A prime example would be the first shark attack of “Jaws” because it sets up the stakes and illustrates how dangerous the ocean outside of Amity Island is.
The first frame of “Hellboy” (2019) is a close-up of a bird pulling an eye out of an emaciated corpse while blood gushes out. A sarcastic narrator describes how King Arthur was “pissed off.” This opening scene sets up how edgy the movie will try to be in its 121-minute run time.
Based on the Dark Horse comic series, David Harbour stars as Hellboy, a red demon from the underworld who works with a secret government agency to fight the really bad demons.
The antagonist of the story is The Blood Queen, played by Milla Jovovich, who after centuries of being locked away has escaped to bring an apocalypse on the modern world.
The previous cinematic incarnation of Hellboy was played by Ron Perlman in 2004 and 2008 with Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro at the helm. A third film had been rumored for a while with both of them attached, but after “Deadpool” proved that audiences respond positively to R-rated comic book movies, plans shifted to the bloody and expletive-filled concept of the film.
What the filmmakers seemed to have forgotten is that audiences responded to “Deadpool” because it was a good movie, not because it was rated R.
The blood spills like Kool-Aid from the opening exposition-stuffed scene and keeps flowing until the end credits. The blood’s constant presence throughout each action sequence undercuts the purpose of bringing real grit to the fights. It is also clearly a digital add-on and feels unnatural, lifeless and fake.
Speaking of lifeless, let’s discuss the plot. The first act of the film is filled with expository narration from Ian McShane, who’s flat voice makes one believe his afternoon of recording must have been really boring.
There is also plenty of globe-trotting as the story takes us from Tijuana to London to Bulgaria, and they are all introduced in the same exact way. The location’s name appears in big bold letters over helicopter shots of the landscape while a rock song indicates for audiences to be pumped up for what’s to come. It does not work and the loud music cannot overcome these cookie cutter moments.
There’s a reason why Harbour’s performance has yet to be discussed — there is nothing to really discuss. He plays the role with sarcastic anger but it never really boils over to a point where it becomes threatening or funny. It is just another flavorless piece in this film.
Despite fake digital add-ons, the makeup and practical effects stand out. A contorting character named Baba Yaga, played by Troy James and voiced by Emma Tate, has skin that hugs the bones while the body bends in ways that are tough to put into words, but is genuinely unsettling to watch.
“Hellboy” (2019) joins the ranks of pointless reboots like “Total Recall” and R-rated movies without any substance such as “Annabelle.” These are all examples of the studio putting the cart before the horse, prioritizing the idea of a movie over the story and offering no new or creative visions. There could be a fun action adventure in there, but often times less is more.