Cult Movie: Latest Hellboy reboot not so bad after all when viewed on small screen

Hellboy – Stranger Things' David Barbour replaces Ron Perlman as the horned hero
Ralph McLean

QUITE a few eyebrows were raised when news broke that the Hellboy franchise was returning to cinema screens earlier this year.

Just over a decade on from director Guillermo del Toro's inspired Hellboy: The Golden Army, comic book writer and artist Mike Mignola's much loved graphic creation was to receive another cinematic reboot.

Reactions – mine included – were initially poor for the 2019 version of Hellboy. Director Neil Marshall seemed unsure of how to tackle the wise-cracking demon and appeared to fall between the two stools of staying true to Mignola's artistic vision and del Toro's effective mix of knowing cult credibility.

The result, on the big screen at least, felt like a fairly messy compromise between the two worlds, with neither fans of the comic or devotees of the old movie franchise coming out of it all particularly impressed.

Oddly enough, a rewatch of the film via its swift appearance this month on Blu-ray on Lionsgate, suggests the film has the makings of a cult favourite – if, of course, you're capable of forgetting everything that's gone before.

David Barbour, from Stranger Things, replaces the brilliant Ron Perlman as the horned hero at the film's core and the always watchable Ian 'Lovejoy' McShane appears smoothly as Hellboy's father figure and boss Trevor Butterholm. For this reboot the action relocates from America to the UK where Hellboy must help to hunt down three giants who are on the loose.

Real danger looms on the horizon, though, in the shape of a crazed reincarnated witch Nimue (Milla Jovovitch ) who hopes to use Hellboy to instigate the arrival of the apocalypse itself.

A lot of old comic-book story arcs are crowbarred into the action-packed fable, including lifts from the likes of Darkness Calls, The Storm And The Fury and Hellboy In Mexico, and there is plenty of full-blown blood and guts on show as the endless monster battles unfold on screen.

On the small screen all this non-stop action works a little better than it seemed to on the big one and there's a quality to the special effects on a TV screen that looked slightly shaky in the cinema.

Where this attempt at a rebirth for the franchise does fall flat on its horned face, however, is in the dialogue. Lumpen and cliché-ridden, the cast are made to deliver expletive-laden nonsense that wouldn't have made the cut in del Toro's hands. That said, the acting is more impressive. Harbour is fine as Hellboy, even if his make-up is a little less convincing than Perlman's was, and McShane is always cool, whatever the acting assignment.

To sum up, if you can get past the faults there's a kind of empty-headed silliness on show here to entertain and amuse. It may be lacking the smart-guy humour or post-modern cleverness of the old films but this new take at least keeps the action quota high and if you like your modern horror played out with a heavy-metal bravado this all-new Hellboy might just do it for you.

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