Dark Horse Comics means something to comic book collectors. For them it has produced comics and characters approaching the adjective, legendary. The rest of us get puzzled looks on our faces when Dark Horse is mentioned. Bring up the name Hellboy or Frank Miller’s “Sin City” and eyes light up.
Not a lot, but they do register.
Dark Horse and comic book creator Mike Mignola introduced Hellboy to comic book and horror fans in 1993. It became popular enough that Ron Perlman — in films written and directed by Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) — brought the character to life in 2004 and did a sequel in 2008. The first film rocked.
The second not so much and that was it for the series.
It’s 2019 and Hellboy has resurrected in what appears to be a new — do we call him a superhero? — series. This time it’s super-buffed-up “Stranger Things” star David Harbour doing the sardonic demon.
“Hellboy” begins with King Arthur and Merlin confronting a wicked witch, Nimue. She’s also called the Blood Queen and is done by Milla Jovovich of “Resident Evil” fame. The woman is defeated and cut into pieces. Each piece is buried far apart from the others in secret places throughout the land.
Eons later, Hellboy is asked by his father to address a problem one area of England is having with violent giants. On that quest he learns the giants are part of a plot by the demon Gruagach who is gathering the witch’s body parts. She’s being reassembled to come back and — insert heavy, bored sigh, here — destroy humanity.
Big yawn. No make that two.
To defeat her, Hellboy teams with Alice Monaghan, a young psychic woman who talks regularly with the dead, and with Major Ben Daimio of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. Once teamed, off they go into an effects-filled, thrown together plot that goes nowhere close to original.
A side crisis involves Hellboy and his dad — done wonderfully by “John Wick’s” Ian McShane. At issue is why dad was sent to kill Hellboy when he was conjured up by the Nazis at the end of World War II and why daddy didn’t do the deed.
That, too, deserves a yawn.
That leads to important questions about the reboot. Question one. How well does Harbour do Hellboy? Question two. Does his performance approach the fun Perlman had introducing the character to movie fans back in 2004? And last — and maybe the most important question — is Harbour’s work and this reboot good enough to deserve a sequel or sequels?
The answer to the first two questions is easy. No. Other than doing a main character in “Stranger Things,” most of his career has been spent doing peripheral characters. I’ve always like his acting and — again — to give him credit, in “Hellboy” he looks the part.
Harbour has managed to buff up his body nicely and is as competent as Perlman, and growls his lines and scowls a lot like a good Hellboy should. However, Harbour’s performance isn’t all that good. The why is answered by question three.
By the way, the answer to question three is also a no.
The script and writer Andrew Cosby (the sci-fi TV series “Eureka”) let Harbour, his co-stars Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim (“Hawaii Five-0,” “Lost”), and fans of the character, down. The dialogue is sophomoric, and his story goes nowhere interesting. Cosby and director Neil Marshall visit places where other, similarly-themed flicks have gone, and gone too many times.
Part two of the third question leads us to the real problem with the “Hellboy” reboot disaster. What it really comes down to is who does the movie. On one hand you have del Toro, an imaginative Oscar-winning director who has written and directed incredible work outside of “Hellboy.” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pacific Rim” come to mind first.
On the other hand you have Marshall and the fairly inexperienced Cosby.
To be fair, Marshall is a decent director who picked up a Primetime Emmy nomination for a “Game of Thrones” episode in 2014. He also directed a “Westworld” episode and a couple from the new version of “Lost in Space.” Cosby’s experience is similar.
As a TV director, Marshall has done projects that come in one-hour clumps. Movies don’t work well when done in clumps and “Hellboy” is as clumpy as they come.
To sum up my answer to the questions. On Harbour, the jury is out. He’s okay in the role but there is an asterisk. The screenplay didn’t give him much of an opportunity to shine. And that leads to the last — and probably most important question — does the reboot deserve sequels?
To that question the answer is easy. No.
Rated R for mature themes, extreme violence, language. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
Rating: 1 out of 5