This year’s Hellboy remains the only 2019 film to leave such a mark on the Midwest Film Journal crew that it warranted two — TWO — positive reviews on opening weekend — one from Mitch Ringenberg and one from me. (In the interest of parity, Nick Rogers thought this Hellboy had fallen into “the hands of spendthrift, creatively bereft dumb-dumbs who alternate between torpor and torpedoing their would-be franchise by throwing together random panels from five different issues.”)
In my review I wrote: “… the gaping, ravenous maw of film culture calls for constant conversation, and many of those films don’t really provide the immediate emotional, visceral reaction that something like Hellboy does: an artwork so poorly stitched that the seams become the pattern of the piece, a movie so revolting at times that most viewers will walk away wondering what it was they just experienced. And why. I loved just about every second of it.”
In the months after Hellboy’s release, it has entirely disappeared from that wider conversation, with star David Harbour admitting the film didn’t work. Indeed, Hellboy was such a colossal box office failure that future films featuring the character are probably not going to be in the pipeline for a decade, if not longer.
Reiterating just how strange and fun this movie is seems like a redundancy, but having sat down and watched through both the Blu-ray and the special features, I feel reasonably qualified to say I stand by my initial statement: Hellboy is a future comic-book schlock classic, completely broken but utterly bonkers. It stems, I think, from the love at work behind the scenes.
By far the most interesting element of the new Blu-ray release (available July 23) is the lengthy three-part documentary The Wild Hunt: Hellboy Reborn, which features interviews with most of the production designers, actors and character mastermind Mike Mignola. This type of documentary tends to be pretty stage-managed, a post-purchase advertisement for a movie you’ve likely already watched at least once. However, unlike many of the others I’ve watched, there’s some juicy production-design trivia contained here, as well as thoughtful reflections by the stars regarding their experience making the movie and how they chose to make their takes substantially different from Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 and 2008 take on the comic. It’s not an apologia for a failure, it’s an explanation for an artistic endeavor that seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
If you are at all curious what this year’s most overlooked film is, look no further than Hellboy.