The new R-rated reboot of “Hellboy” from Lionsgate and starring David Harbour is a bloodier, more violent take on Mike Mignola’s comic book character than Guillermo del Toro’s original films, and many critics haven’t been shy in savaging it.
Early reviews of director Neil Marshall’s “Hellboy” are largely negative, with critics saying that the new film pales in comparison to the fantasy whimsy of del Toro’s version. At least one critic was willing to say that the film is an early contender for the worst film of the year, while another went as far as to call it one of the worst comic book movies ever made.
“In a word, ‘Hellboy’ is unpleasant. Other appropriate adjectives to describe this reboot include dreadful, obnoxious, unnecessary and interminable,” /Film’s Josh Spiegel wrote in his review. “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.”
Critics pointed to the film’s graphic opening in which a bird gouges out an eye of a corpse, as well as noted the dense plotting that goes back to the legend of King Arthur as detailed in the original comics.
Some critics were mixed on the quality of Harbour’s performance as well and felt that a different director like del Toro could have extracted a great performance out of him. But others were less kind and missed the work Ron Perlman brought to the role.
“Harbour, so endearing as Sheriff Hopper on ‘Stranger Things,’ has none of the agreeable humor Ron Perlman brought to the character; as a result, his many quips go over like a fart in an elevator,” The AV Club’s Katie Rife wrote in her review.
For a different take however, TheWrap’s own critic William Bibbiani was among the most kind, praising the film’s wacky gore and changing tones as a welcome, campy throwback.
“The reboot by Neil Marshall (‘Doomsday’) takes as many of Mignola’s contrasts as possible and shoves them into a single film, creating a sprawling saga of clashing conceits, wildly disparate tones and childlike whimsy tinged with ultra-violence,” Bibbiani wrote. “And that’s not a critique; it’s very high praise.”
See more snippets of reviews around the web below. “Hellboy” opens in theaters Friday.
William Bibbiani, TheWrap
Marshall’s “Hellboy” is a horrifyingly good time. It captures the breathless quality of reading 30 issues of a single comic-book series in one sugar-addled afternoon, shoving as many amazing characters and storylines and images into one film as it can possibly hold. It could have seemed overstuffed and frenetic, but this new “Hellboy” instead comes across as imaginative and freewheeling. Even the shocking violence is fun and humorous, harkening back to the good old days of slapstick horror classics like the “Evil Dead” and “Waxwork” movies.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
Perhaps the best defense that can be mustered in support of Marshall’s “Hellboy” is that the director’s affection for the material is no less real or exuberant than del Toro’s; it’s just a lot more crudely, monotonously expressed. The movie seems to spring from a curious awareness of how unnecessary it is, and it responds in the manner of an uninvited guest, with no interest in behaving or ingratiating itself. We are hurled, with a rude but fitting lack of ceremony, into a smorgasbord of R-rated horror and fantasy conventions, replete with weird detours into Arthurian legend, Mayan mythology and Slavic folklore, and rendered in the director’s preferred visual idiom of disemboweled corpses and beautifully art-directed entrails.
Josh Spiegel, /Film
Neil Marshall, known as much for his indie horror film ‘The Descent” as for directing two action-packed episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” exerts no control and offers no coherency in the various set pieces here. There’s no sense of timing in the humor, or in the action throughout. One early set piece pits Hellboy against a trio of man-eating giants, which Marshall uses as an opportunity to show off with a supposed long take that just looks like a lame video-game cutscene. That, in effect, is the level to which this “Hellboy” rises in terms of its action credentials – video-game-style action that doesn’t look as good as the real thing.
Darren Franich, EW
The “Hellboy” comic book inspired two features last decade, directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman. No point comparing those delightful fantasy comedies to this splattery reboot. Del Toro packed the screen with luscious fantasy imagery. Perlman earned Karloff comparisons playing a rueful-romantic hero, a monster more human than humans. Whereas this new film wants to be a punch in the face. Success, I guess? Director Neil Marshall is most known for the fearful cave-horror film “The Descent” and a two big “Game of Thrones” battles. “Hellboy” occasionally offers Marshall’s dark swagger on a grand scale, an underworld unleashed with skin-ripping excess. But too much of the film is just bland cloudy-grim action set to lightweight metal machine music. At pivotal moments, the special effects can turn laughably bad. Wait till you see what happens to Ian McShane.
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post
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.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
A bloodier, sillier remix of the earlier entries in this unlikely franchise, “Hellboy” swaps Perlman for “Stranger Things” detective David Harbour, whose large frame and snarky posturing on that show was basically a Ron Perlman homage, anyway. Harbour makes for a formidable Hellboy in a visually snappy milieu that, like del Toro’s earlier entries, takes its cues from Mignola’s sardonic horror-fantasy universe. There’s plenty to enjoy about the latest absurdist odyssey, which finds Hellboy grappling with his sinister origin amidst some Arthurian gobbledygook about the coming apocalypse. However, Marshall works so hard to make the zany underworld-gone-wild formula entertaining when the entertainment value is already baked into the material. All that eager wackiness has a breaking point.
Katie Rife, The AV Club
The sentimental father-son subplot is “Hellboy” at its most laughably absurd, highlighting the chasm between its script and its direction. Harbour, so endearing as Sheriff Hopper on “Stranger Things,” has none of the agreeable humor Ron Perlman brought to the character; as a result, his many quips go over like a fart in an elevator. The makeup is wearing him, to the extent that it takes a while to get used to his voice coming out of Hellboy’s body. Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim’s supporting roles are similarly disjointed; both are fine characters with comic-book origins, but they’re shoehorned in so awkwardly that they feel superfluous. McShane glides by on how much everyone loves it when he says the word “f—,” leaving Jovovich to give the most committed, and therefore the best, performance in the film.
Alan Zilberman, The Washington Post
If anything, “Hellboy” is a testament to del Toro’s talents as a filmmaker. Through evocative creatures and production design, he created a more inventive world than what we typically see from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or its DC equivalent. There is a moment in this new film when Hellboy regrows his horns, wielding a fiery sword as he rides a huge beast and vanquishes the damned on hell’s surface. If a film’s best attempt at over-the-top imagery inspires little more than a halfhearted shrug, something has gone terribly wrong.