I did not come to this new interpretation of Mike Mignola’s essential character from the perspective of the previous filmic version. Guillermo Del Toro’s flawed original and excellent sequel are their own thing and I decided to respect that. I was able to almost completely forget about that duo thanks to my history with the comic itself. I was a lapsed comic book fan when my Rasputin looking buddy turned me onto “Big Red”. Immediately, I was in love. It’s still the only comic I follow (or graphic novel, if you’re that kind of asshole). So I went into this movie with my fandom planted firmly on the illustrated adventure terra firmer. That may be why I was in the minority of people that enjoyed….dare I say…. loved it.
In 517 A.D. the immortal witch Nimue (Milla Jovovich who somehow manages to be the most subtle thing in the whole damn picture) is thwarted by King Arthur and the wizard Merlin. In an attempt to make life easier on her shadow dwelling brethren she has unleashed a plague on mankind. Hoping for a truce, she meets with Arthur and is almost immediately screwed over. Her pesky immortality is dealt with in a sadistically clever fashion by dismembering her and burying her body parts all over the world. This will become an issue when a pissed off hog-man creature named Gruagach (played by Stephen Graham) who has a history with Hellboy, starts piecing together his queen.
This is only one of several threads running through the tapestry that is this movie. Hellboy (David Hatbour who is obviously loving the role) is introduced searching for a missing agent (he works for the B.P.R.D, a government agency tasked with taking care of paranormal threats) in Tijuana. This of course ends in a Lucha libre match to the death between our hero and a masked luchador who turns out to be his vamparized drinking buddy now transformed into a thing more bat than human. If you said; “well, that escalated quickly”, you may want to get used to it because all this film really is is a constant form of escalation.
After Hellboy’s “dad” Professor Bruttenholm (pronounced Broom and played by Ian McShane who is as charming as ever) sends some agents to pick up his “son” who has been on a three week bender, he is sent off to England to assist the secretive Osiris Club in a giant hunt. While getting introduced to various members and filled in on the club’s past, their resident “seer”, Lady Hatton, shares his origin story which involves a young Professor Broom, Nazis, Rasputin, and a goggled hero named Lobster Johnson (Thomas Hadden Church who nails it in his brief appearance). Turns out our boy was summoned from hell to bring about the apocalypse but thanks to good old American intervention, it never happened. Well, it seems the Osiris Club isn’t as confident as Broom is in his “son” and their giant hunt is a ploy to ambush Hellboy and assassinate his big red ass. They almost pull it off but some pissed off giants take them out before they can finish the job.
Hellboy comes to in rough shape, manages to fight and kill the three giants when they come after him and eventually collapses. He’s found and gathered up by a young psychic woman named Alice who he saved from fairies when they snatched her from her crib. She communicates with the dead and they told her of Hellboy’s arrival in England and now they’re telling her to kill him before he brings about the end of the world. Luckily, she doesn’t listen. Broom arrives and Hellboy confronts him about his past but there’s no time for any of that to be resolved because they’re about to raid the Osiris Club to figure out what the fuck just happened. Along with M-11 (another secretive agency) headed by Captain Ben Daimio, they discover the club massacred and Hellboy finally meets an almost complete Nimue.
Following their brief encounter, Nimue’s plan for vengeance against humankind changes. Seeing something in Hellboy, she realizes that if they are together they will bring about a new age. Granted, most humans will be left dead in their wake but it’s about so much more than simple revenge now. So the race against the clock is on and Hellboy is becoming more and more annoyed by his place in the whole mess and is pretty much completely fed up with the B.P.R.D. and humanity’s method of shooting first and asking questions later. It’ll all culminate in the spot of Nimue’s original betrayal where Hellboy becomes his prophesied form, various hell beasts are unleashed and a choice is made. While getting to this point there is plenty of death, a were-leopard, fuckin Baba Yaga (who also has a past with Hellboy), Merlin, Excalibur and ectoplasmic communication.
Listen. I know this film is a mess. I was confused halfway through writing my own synopsis and this is my third time watching the thing. They drop you smack dab in the middle of a story rich with history and just fill you in along the way with short flashbacks. I know that can be jarring for some. I happen to enjoy it because it succeeds in giving the whole movie a well lived in feel. That was one of my favorite parts of the comic. Just how much crap you knew had already gone down. But whereas the comic had a few decades to fill in the blanks and continue to build on the universe, the movie gives you two hours and shit ton of exposition. I may love it but I completely understand why the majority of the viewing public didn’t.
Outside of the jumbled mess of a script the other major issue is some shoddy cgi work. I have a bit of a higher threshold for bad special effects but even I wasn’t able to ignore some poor looking action and violence. Honestly though, it’s a hyperactive flick with plenty of monsters, plenty of blood and enough likable characters to fill out a couple seasons of an HBO series. 8/10