Hellboy is back, and though he may be on fire, he isn’t as hot as people wanted him to be.
Lionsgate lifted the review embargo for the Hellboy reboot on Wednesday, April 10 — just a few days before the film’s theatrical launch on Friday, April 12 — and reviewers quickly let their thoughts about the pic be known. Unfortunately, a film that many hoped would be just as good and potentially even better than the Guillermo del Toro-directed Hellboy duology has seemingly crashed and burned.
Directed by Neil Marshall and starring Stranger Things favorite David Harbour as Big Red himself, the new Hellboy has spurred a wave of negative reviews: the overwhelming majority of critics are roasting the reboot as soulless, excessively violent, boring, far too long, confused in its tone and story, and the frontrunner in the “race for worst movie of the year.”
Johnny Oleksinski of The New York Post wrote of Hellboy, “This awful, disgusting, unfunny, idiotically plotted comic book flick offends the senses as much as the rankest subway car on the hottest summer day. A fun-enough franchise back in the aughts, when it boasted future Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, the new reboot has been turned into a sludge-colored Resident Evil wannabe by his successor Neil Marshall.” He also noted that Harbour portraying the half-demon hero “with a sardonic remove that he seems to think is a laugh riot” translated as completely humorless, and that Milla Jovovich as the main villain Nimue the Blood Queen was “a wash.”
Hellboy being touted as a hard-R-rated take on the Dark Horse Comics character, the film is packed with gore — which Oleksinski said began as “gross” and soon turned “unwatchable.” Slashfilm‘s Josh Spiegel pointed out that the first scene in Hellboy warns audiences that what they’re about to see will get increasingly gruesome with each passing minute: “The opening shot of Hellboy, at least, serves as a necessary warning. It’s a visual version of someone ominously saying to you, ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.’ In that first shot, a crow callously and roughly rips an eye out of a corpse, and then we’re off to the races.”
In his review, Spiegel also called Hellboy “unpleasant … dreadful, obnoxious, unnecessary, and interminable,” and stated that audiences will be able to tell the movie is “quite bad all on its own” without even needing to think about how it stacks up to the original films.
“Considering the shadow cast by the two Hellboy films written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, it might be easy to presume that this new version simply pales in comparison. Though that’s true, let’s not belabor the point: this Hellboy is quite bad all on its own. There’s no need to compare this to del Toro’s films, because to do so would just inspire pain,” wrote Spiegel. “This new film … feels like a mistake from the start and gets worse from there.”
Variety critic Owen Gleiberman agreed that director Marshall’s efforts to make Hellboy a grim, gritty, gory adaptation of the famous comics character fell completely flat, resulting in an incoherent mess of a movie.
“It’s lunging to be a badass hard-R epic, but it’s basically 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,” wrote Gleiberman, also arguing that while Harbour “does well” filling original Hellboy actor Ron Perlman’s shoes, Marshall doesn’t live up to del Toro.
Sean Mulvihill at FanboyNation.com felt similarly, writing that Harbour is the only saving grace of the new Hellboy.
“This reboot plays out like some kind of ancient curse that arises when a spell has been incanted wrongly, as pretty much nothing goes right for Hellboy aside from the spirited performance of its star,” he stated, then touching on how Hellboy‘s mature rating is in no way beneficial or even necessary to the narrative. “The biggest difference between this Hellboy and the previous films is the reboot’s R rating. This, sadly, adds nothing but unnecessary F-bombs and gallons of computer generated blood. Marshall doesn’t adequately tap into his horror roots, so there’s no suspense nor even repulsion at the liberal use of CG gore … The way Hellboy tries to cram every scene with a million revelations means that it feels like an early ’00s comic book movie that wants to turn a sprawling anthology into a single two-hour movie at the expense of both plot and character.”
“Hellboy is a muddled, overstuffed mess. Very few things go right in this unnecessary reboot. The computer effects look half-finished. The plotting is shambolic. The final act features some incredibly insane revelations that inspire more unintentional laughter than shock or surprise,” continued Mulvihill. “This is a film devoid personality and that lack of identity means that it doesn’t know what audience it’s aiming at. It’s not scary or gory enough to win over hardcore horror fans and its action is so generic that even diehard superhero fans will yawn at the familiarity.”
IGN‘s Meg Downey found particular fault in Hellboy‘s overstuffed story and shoddy CGI, and wrote that the character’s return “is anything but a welcome one or a worthy successor to the original films.” She said in her review, “The story itself tries to be much more faithful to the Hellboy comics than the del Toro duology, but suffers from a completely unfocused series of intertwining plots. Sure, they’re all plots that Hellboy readers will likely recognize, at least in part, but the finished product feels a bit like comic book salad, various ideas and concepts from the books cut out and pasted together ransom note-style … Add to the clutter of the plot some truly embarrassing CGI- — and virtually all of it is CGI, there are maybe two practical effects in the movie outside of Harbour’s costume and makeup — and you’ve got a real recipe for disaster. There’s really no other way to say it: the movie looks cheap.”
Downey wrapped up her thoughts on the new Hellboy with a cutting statement: “Hellboy is a thin, clumsy, and charmless attempt at rebooting a beloved franchise.”
Jordan Ruimy of World of Reel held nothing back in slamming Hellboy as “one of the very worst movies you will see all year.” He wrote, “Director Neil Marshall’s reboot also has action sequences which are choppily edited to the point where you can easily lose track of what’s happening. The hard R-rating stamped on the film isn’t for nothing either, the gore, and, God, there’s plenty of it, involving ugly monsters and a cheapening of CGI, renders Marshall’s reboot from hell one of the true bombs of the year thus far.”
The Playlist‘s Griffin Schiller called Hellboy an “edgelordy,” “dreadful, juvenile mess,” giving the film a D- rating on a scale from A to F.
“[Ron Perlman and Guillermo del Toro] will most certainly be disheartened to learn their highly-anticipated third installment was passed over for an obnoxiously loud and painfully dull revamp. The attempt here to usher in a new era of the beloved demon is so misguided and dismal, the pair won’t know whether to laugh or cry,” wrote Schiller. “Hellboy is a juvenile mess that one could convincingly believe was made by an edgelordy 13-year-old pleased as punch he’s gotten away with an R-rating. The film’s poorly written Deadpool-inspired humor is dreadful, the incoherent narrative that relies heavily on cheap exposition is calamitous and the gratuitous, grotesque violence employed through conveys a complete misunderstanding of the character and who the film was made for.”
Schiller further argued that the reboot “reads like filmmakers so concerned with distancing themselves from Guillermo del Toro’s well-loved films that they forgot to make a good movie,” and agreed with other critics in saying that the film tries to hard to make use of its adult rating.
“Hellboy unleashes an utterly unnecessary amount of demonic violence in which countless civilians are decapitated, skewered and ripped in half all while delivering the most dimwitted dialogue in an attempt at humor,” he wrote. “This needless bloodshed numbs the senses, and after the fifth forced f-bomb, it’s hard to believe anyone over the PG-13 age limit actually wrote this movie. And therein lies the true problem, Hellboy is ultimately a big dumb PG-13 tale trying to pointlessly squeeze its way into an R-rated body for the most stupid and adolescent reasons.”
“Today, Hellboy is the franchise that could have been — and, judging by an execrable new reboot, probably never will be,” wrote Rafer Guzmán at Newsday. “The movie ends with hints of a sequel, of course, but let’s hope not. Even Hellboy’s fans might wish this incarnation would go back where he came from.”
Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth said that the film “makes zero sense” narratively and its sloppy and unimaginative action sequences result in a “horrific” end product. Associated Press critic Mark Kennedy wrote that Hellboy is a “series of violent vignettes strung together, getting more and more outlandish and introducing characters at such a blistering pace that you just want it to stop already.” He even wondered whether “making Hellboy movies is as cursed as its hero” based on how “muddled” this reboot is.
Not everyone hated Hellboy, of course. While the film currently sits at an abysmal 12 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (as of Thursday, April 11 at 9 AM ET), a few critics lodged positive reviews for it.
Over at TheWrap, William Bibbiani wrote that Hellboy “is a horrifyingly good time” and its messiness is part of its appeal. “Neil Marshall’s Hellboy is a wellspring of creativity, a major superhero movie made for hardcore R-rated horror fans, overflowing with humor and action and scares. It’s ambitious and low-key at the same time, knowing full well that its target audience isn’t the mainstream blockbuster demographic that demands structure or even sanity,” said Bibbiani.
Uproxx senior editor Vince Mancini also gave Hellboy a positive critique. “Exuberantly gross and proudly ridiculous, this Hellboy feels like the picture Glenn Danzig sees in his head when he doodles in his notebook,” he wrote. “This Hellboy is so unapologetically itself. Rather than slow the story down, back it up, and try to get us to understand and identify with the stakes like del Toro did, breakneck speed is this Hellboy‘s entire aesthetic.”
As always, these are just a small selection of viewers’ feelings on the new Hellboy movie and don’t represent how everyone everywhere will respond to it. Some fans may fall in love with the punched-up, R-rated, extra-bloody adaptation; others might despise it. Thankfully, they don’t have long to wait to see Hellboy and formulate their own opinions on it: the film is set to open in theaters on April 12.