Y'know, it's tough to beat Guillermo del Toro.
The visionary writer/director behind "The Shape of Water" and "Pan's Labyrinth" turned Mike Mignola's graphic novels about a demon-hunting demon into a successful set of action/fantasy films in the mid-'00s. A "Hellboy" reboot hit the theaters last week, and it's kind of a predictable, CGI gore fest.
The man behind the red prosthetics this time is David Harbour ("Stranger Things"). He's a natural fit for disheveled, likable wisecrackery. But, he's at his best here when the script lends emotional complexity to his character - drunken mourning or existential musings - which is few and far between.
Be prepared for a lot of Hellboy passing out, coming to, kicking ass and passing out again after fight sequences set to rock interludes and gratuitous carnage. He's up against a lot, though - giants, a crab-walking witch and Nimue, a 5th-century Blood Queen.
The latter is hell-bent on destroying mankind with a plague so creatures of the netherworld can freely walk the earth. Nimue is played by Milla Jovovich, stunning in fair skin and long dark hair, but her talents seem misspent here.
This could've been a far more physical role, at least facially, for Jovovich who is no stranger to prowess and power. (Think "Resident Evil" and "The Fifth Element" for all you millennials.) Mostly, this role is about raised arms, lukewarm sorcery and a plunging neckline.
Along for the Nimue fight are Hellboy's sidekicks military man Major Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim) who injects a mystery concoction on a timer, and medium Sasha Lane (Alice Monaghan) who has a sibling-like history with the man in red.
Both are vaguely interesting, but not really, and these characters are set up for some sequels. There is some last-act excitement seeing (spoiler alert) the Major morph into a lethal feline. (More excitement watching him morph back into the clothes he tore through minutes earlier.)
"Hellboy" goes deeper with an origin story with Nazis and King Arthur. On top of that, screenwriter Andrew Cosby (penning his first feature-length film) does include some stabs at depth.
As Nimue gets current after centuries underground, she balks at how man has "replaced swords with singing competitions." Hellboy has an existential meltdown to Dad aka Professor Broom (Ian McShane) for unleashing him to slay his brothers and sisters.
And Nimue implores him: "Why do you fight for those who hate and fear you?"
These are all tertiary to the action, the (unnecessary) guts and the rock.
With films like "Centurion," "Descent," and forays into "Game of Thrones," this is a good fit for director Neil Marshall. He made a "Hellboy" that sticks to the comic-book action formula, but he traded its bite for weird, Glo-worm-y spirits.
This one is a far cry from del Toro's monster mastery, but maybe it's supposed to be.
Starring: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Andrew Cosby (screenplay), Mike Mignola (graphic novels)
Rating: R for strong language, bloody violence and gore
Now showing: Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10