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Hellboy is an unlikely superhero. He is not at all good looking to begin with. He is not even movie-ugly, he is ugly-ugly.

He is also half demon and looks the part. His skin colour is red, and he has a horn and a tail. Fortunately, his heart is in the right place, and he is a walking, talking lesson to us all not to judge a book by its cover. Since he was born - discovered is more like it - he has been adopted by a human and employed by a secret police force that protects humanity against monsters.

This is good material for any movie. It plays around with an unconventional idea, asking what if a hero does not look as good as he is moral. In fact, what if that hero is not even chosen but was meant to be a villain, a destiny he shrugs to do what is right.

The Hellboy remake fails to build on this. It gives us a superhero that is nothing in looks like his peers at DC or Marvel and gives us a plot that is as predictable as the ones popularised by the two comic book giants.

The film starts with a narration – always a bad omen, narrations are mostly signs of lazy storytelling - about an episode with King Arthur, the most overused mythical character in movies nowadays. Together with his ally, Merlin, and an inside person, they are able to incapacitate and dismember the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), this movie’s baddy, using Excalibur. Arthur makes sure that her limbs, head and torso are locked in a box bound by spells and hidden away.

The movie does not explain why they could not just burn her or - mind the grotesquery - cut her into a thousand pieces using Excalibur and scatter her body across the world.

If she is such a dangerous witch, why take the chance with just six pieces that could later be found and reassembled?

Of course, if that was the case, this film’s plot would not take place. An old witch - the most unattractive witch any movie has managed to come up with to date - and a mutated pig-monster conspire to bring her back. Here too the film does not bother to mention how come in a world populated with so many monsters, the Blood Queen was brought back over a millenia after her dismemberment, especially considering how simple it all was to do.

It is up to Hellboy (David Harbour) to stop the Blood Queen from wreaking havoc. But the hero’s efforts will be complicated as his past begins to calculate into the villain’s plans.

If Hellboy was not too keen on gratuitous violence and an oversimplified plot, and had its scriptwriter, Andrew Cosby, not been as lazy, this would have been a good film. It is an R-rated movie, giving the filmmakers latitude on a more sophisticated narration and storyline. It could have been akin to a detective movie where, as the story progressed, we could learn about the villain’s plans, Hellboy’s past and the movie’s world, where humans live together with monsters and witches. This was not to be.

Hellboy was not bad on all fronts. Harbour, whose performance is strengthened by the spot-on costume, infuses in Hellboy expressions that perfectly match the character’s wit and loneliness. The makeup and costume work for the movie was even more impressive.

Unfortunately, this was a movie that was not sure whether or not it wanted to be Deadpool. It was willing to show us R-rated deaths and monsters, but its scriptwriter was unwilling to sacrifice an actual day’s work for the sake of a good plot or even an appropriately articulated theme.

It is a movie that wanted to strive to greatness - as can be seen in the grittiness - but got too scared and preferred to come back to Earth. Unfortunately, it missed and went right back to where the protagonist came from, hell.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 991]


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