Hellboy (2019): ‘Bringing Back the Dead Red Boy’ – A Film Review



Back in the early days of comic book movies, before we started to have big budgets for movies that wasn’t just the house hold names of Batman, Superman or Spider-man; there were many attempts on smaller, weirder and sometimes more violent affairs: Blade, Spawn and Hellboy. The limited budgets and limited releases meant that their success was also limited, and despite their best efforts were perhaps stuck to an earlier generation of comic book movies. They did, however, pave the way for many films to come. There was enough in there for franchises to flourish and with bigger names to be attached. Hellboy was amongst them but like them, also seemed to fizzle out. Rather than continuing the franchise, Neil Marshall and Mike Mignola have instead opted to reboot the franchise in Hellboy.


Effects and Fights

With the modern times there is immediately an expansion on the visual style, drawing upon the imagination that accompanied the comic books and the previous installment. There is a much bigger world with more varied creatures that expand into bigger areas. A fight scene with giants includes greater areas of vertical and horizontal space, accompanying the size and power of the giants into the fight sequences. This makes for some impressive moments within the film but, whether by choice or not, sometimes monsters, particularly in transformation, don’t feel realistic but flubbery and held back. Much like Spawn, Hellboy also seems to hint at moments that, whether for budget or choice, are never fully realised or elaborated on, as worlds are briefly shown. This doesn’t exactly hurt the film though and Hellboy remains visually impressive.



The problems arise a lot more with narrative and character. Hellboy has always been a particular oddball character, both in appearance and look. Despite the presence of character, there is a sense in which it doesn’t go anywhere special or amazing. In spite of the wonderful moments of visual style and choreography, this isn’t something that is carried forward into the dramatic tension, particularly with the climactic moments. Instead the narrative is rather run of the mill. The twists, turns and developments are cheesy, cliché or underwhelming. The conclusion is perhaps meant to have more of a character impact than it actually feels, particularly for a film set up to be, and hinting at, the grandiose action horror. The events are meant to be world impacting, but it is all depicted in a very small and underwhelming manner. The events are a small consequence of what the film, and the characters, are actually interested in.



Overall, Hellboy is a visual step up, and there is a lot more variety in the world than in the previous films. It doesn’t forget to carry the world into the style, and moments aren’t shy but blunt. But stringing this all together into something that is character driven and that can push you through each moment to make them all the more memorable, Hellboy struggles to do. Exciting and interesting and with an obvious budget, it remains to be entertaining enough to be decidedly average. Only glamorising in the spectacle of the brief but well developed CGI – even if at times it may not.



Hellboy (David Harbour) is struggling to find his place in the world as his father’s organization gets wrapped up in returning evil monsters.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Blade (d. Stephen Norrington USA 1998)

Hellboy (d. Guillermo del Toro USA 2004)

Hellboy (d. Neil Marshall UK/Bulgaria/USA 2019)

Spawn (d. Mark A.Z. Dippé USA 1997)


Further Reading



Official Site

Interview with David Harbour

Interview with Mike Mignolia

Interview with Neil Marshall

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs

Becoming Hellboy

Milla Jovovich’s Defence


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This was an analytical review of….


Hellboy (d. Neil Marshall UK/Bulgaria/USA 2019)

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