Box Office Failures Week: Hellboy (2019)

I wanted in my heart of hearts to love this movie. I mean, it starts with a Spanish-language version of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” while the titular Hellboy battles a lucha libre vampire. That bloodsucker turns out to be Esteban Ruiz, an agent for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. His last words are a prophecy of the end of the world, as related to the Blood Queen Vivienne Nimue (Milla Jovovich), the mother of all monsters, who was once destroyed and vivisected all over England by King Arthur.

So why did I feel like I ate dollar store candy — a lot of dollar store candy — and now feel kind of woozy?

Because this movie follows the two Guillermo del Toro Hellboy films. And those movies? The finest chocolate you’ve ever tasted. And I’ll admit it. I was prejudiced against this movie the moment that del Toro’s role was diminished and then he walked away.

After that mission, Hellboy’s father — B.P.R.D. leader Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) — asks his adopted son to assist the Osiris Club as they hunt three giants. This is when we learn that Hellboy came to our world as the result of a Nazi experiment, but instead of killing him, Bruttenholm decided to raise him.

Meanwhile, a pig fairy named Gruagach and the witch Baba Yaga — no relation to the Italian bonkers 1970’s film outside of name and cultural origin — are gathering the pieces of Nimue. And oh yeah — those hunters decided to kill Hellboy because they also feel like he’s going to cause the end of the world.

Luckily, Hellboy gets back on his feet and fights the giants until he’s saved by Alice Monaghan, a witch who he saved from fairies — including the pig man, which is why he hates our hero — when she was a child. There’s a flashback and at this point, if you’ve read the Hellboy comics, you’re either up to speed, upset with deviances in the movie or you haven’t read them and are utterly lost. Or perhaps you’re drunk and just enjoying the gore, as I enjoyed this film with a huge buffet of cheladas at 7 AM.

There’s also M11 agent Ben Daimio, who has a special bullet that can kill Hellboy, just in case he’s taken in by Nimue, who comes back to life and starts a plague that spreads throughout England.

Oh yeah — somehow Hellboy is the Anung un Rama, the literal heir of Arthur through his mother, who is now trapped in Hell by his father. He can carry Excaibur but refuses to, assured that it will lead to the end of the world.

So — the good: I liked David Harbour in this. He seems like a decent guy and goes all in on his roles. He was frustrated by the failure of this movie, saying, “We did our best, but there’s so many voices that go into these things and they’re not always going to work out. I did what I could do and I feel proud of what I did, but ultimately I’m not in control of a lot of those things.” 

Speaking of all those voices, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola bowed out early, missing the behind the scenes feuding between director Neil Marshall (The DescentDog Soldiers) and producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin, who went so far as to interrupt the director in front of the cast and crew during rehearsals to give his own direction to them. The production team also fired Sam McCurdy, Marhsall’s cinematographer. This was to send a message — note the word allegedly should be that, as Levin’s lawyer has decried these claims — to the director that he was not really in charge.

I also loved seeing Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson and the Abe Sapian cameo at the end. It’s not a perfect movie — far from it, it has a very inconsistent tone — but I wasn’t bored. And hey — the actors, particularly Jovovich, seemed to be having a blast. Maybe it didn’t make back its $50 million dollar budget, but it got close.

For her part, Jovovich would say that her “raddest films have been slammed by critics” and argued that this would become a cult classic. I mean, who are we to deny the star of Ultraviolet?

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