Audiences seem fond of Hellboy, giving the half-demon superhero's origin story a decent 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Movie critics, however, offer up a dismal 12% rating, wishing for a return of director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman of the first two Hellboy features. Here, Perlman is supplanted by David Harbour of Stranger Things, del Toro by British director Neil Marshall. According to critics, therein lies the problem:
- Following "two much tighter and more satisfying movies," this Hellboy wants to be "a badass hard-R epic, but it’s basically a pile of origin-story gobbledygook, frenetic and undercooked," Owen Gleiberman writes at Variety. He adds there's "a hole where its most fascinating conflict should be" and "an atmosphere of apocalyptic grunge that signifies next to nothing."
- "I found myself checking the time," writes Peter Suderman, who was similarly left longing for del Toro's Hellboy because it was "funny, thrilling, emotionally engaged, a platform for a director's distinctive vision." Marshall's take, on the other hand, is "loud, obnoxious, and pointlessly grotesque" with "trashy" effects and "sloppy" action scenes, Suderman writes at Reason.com, concluding the director is "out of his depth."
- Christy Lemire concurs. "You will never realize how much you need Guillermo del Toro in your life until you see the reboot of Hellboy," which "just will … not … end," she writes at RogerEbert.com. "It's admittedly kind of a kick" for a while but then becomes "empty bombast and a million bloody ways to rip a body to pieces." She adds Harbour "can only do so much" as "he's called upon to contribute little more than sheer brute strength."
- "A moviegoer will get better bang for the buck rewatching Shazam! or Captain Marvel than seeing this piffle," Matthew Rozsa writes at Salon. Hellboy "overuses CGI" yet is "visually unremarkable" and "contains all of the elements of the originals that were mediocre … with none of the style and artistry that made them distinctive." In the end, "you're not entirely sure you really experienced anything at all."
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