I am a big fan of the Guillermo del Toro Hellboy movies. I own both of them. I would have been quite happy to see a third, but was not angry or upset when I heard someone else was taking a run at it. How many versions of Spider-man have there been? Having said that, I only just recently finally got a chance to see it.
I don’t mind David Harbour’s Hellboy, but I prefer Ron Perlman’s. I was happy to see Ian McShane, and it kind of felt like a very different take on Dr. Bruttenholm than John Hurt’s. It’s kind of like I can prefer Sean Connery’s early James Bond portrayals, while still enjoying Timothy Dalton or Daniel Craig’s version.
The Bond franchise is kind of useful to illustrate how I think about film series and various incarnations of characters and stories. I prefer aspects of different Bond movies even when it’s not my favourite Bond – For Your Eyes Only would have been a truly great Bond film with a truly great Bond, but instead ends up as a good Bond film and a highlight in Roger Moore’s otherwise abysmal run. That’s kind of how I feel about Hellboy – it’s not that I dislike any of the particular character choices, but unlike For Your Eyes Only which would be immensely improved by having a better actor/version of Bond, I think the various incarnations of these characters could be good if only they had a stronger vehicle.
Unfortunately the writing is just bad. It’s not so much the dialogue, it’s the internal inconsistencies, occasional appearance of idiot plots, and extraneous additions that kill this version. I really like Neil Marshall and have since seeing Dog Soldiers. He’s generally solid and I have pretty much liked if not loved the movies he has directed. I have a strong suspicion that too many fingers spoiled this particular pie, and that Marshall was crowded out by other chefs in his kitchen.
I actually would not recommend the new Hellboy. It’s not a complete waste of time and has some entertainment value but it is not a good movie and can be frustrating, especially if you are a fan of the comic or the previous incarnation. If there’s another one, I just hope the studio picks a director with a vision – as I suspect they did here – and then get the hell out of the way and let that vision blossom.