Moviegoers who don’t worship exclusively at the altar of Guillermo del Toro and are open to multiple interpretations of the same source material are in for a treat with the new Hellboy.
11 years after the future Oscar winner’s tremendous Hellboy II: The Golden Army, director Neil Marshall (The Descent) and screenwriter Andrew Cosby (the Syfy series Eureka) take a nicely-fitting and cinematically novel R-rated approach to Mike Mignola’s comic books, embracing that freedom from the start through foul-mouthed introductory narration by Allied paranormal expert, Professor Broom (Ian McShane).
Within minutes of his first appearance, David Harbour (Stranger Things) feels like an ace casting choice as the titular red entity, a weapon for good despite the nefarious forces that raised him from the underworld — and the prophesied threat he poses to humanity should long-vanquished Blood Queen Nimue (Milla Jovovich) return to seek vengeance.
Deeply cynical but with a vulnerable heart pumping away beneath his demonic chest, this Hellboy is quick with a joke, nearly all of which land — one component of Cosby’s pleasantly self-aware writing that at one point prompts teen psychic Alice (Sasha Lane, Hearts Beat Loud) to ponder who might be around for the sequel.
Less praiseworthy, however, are the film’s copious special effects, which range from extraordinary to ’90s PC game cheap. In the service of ultra-violent and bloody action sequences that frequently find Hellboy mouthing off before being comically thrown around by an agent of evil, the inconsistent CGI still gets the job done and saves some of its best creative imagery for the well-executed big finale.
The entertaining results merit the aforementioned follow-up adventure, and should the filmmakers be given that opportunity, based on a familiar face teased just before the credits roll and the comic-rooted danger that closes out the second tag scene, promising new chapters await.
Grade: B. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, and Carolina Cinemark