hellboy

David Harbour plays the titular character in “Hellboy.”

Sometimes “more adult” does not mean “more mature.” That’s the central problem facing “Hellboy,” the reboot of the comic book character popularized in films by Guillermo del Toro.

The original 2004 movie and its 2008 sequel were PG-13 affairs, with a focus on the demonic antihero’s lovable streak. Under the direction of Neil Marshall, a filmmaker with his own horror/fantasy bona fides, this Hellboy curses, eviscerates, flays and disembowels. Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby went overboard with their R-rating, introducing so much gore and profanity that it, quite frankly, gets dull. The flat performances and incoherent story do not help matters.

Created by Mike Mignola in 1993, Hellboy is a literal demon from hell who lives on Earth. As part of a paranormal government agency, he fights for the good guys, keeping other monsters from wreaking havoc. Ron Perlman played Hellboy in the del Toro films, and here David Harbour — best known as Chief Hopper from Netflix’s “Stranger Things” — takes over. The two actors look similar in their heavy makeup, complete with red skin and devil horns filed down to stumps, and they have similar evil plots to overturn.

This time Hellboy faces off against the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a witch who wants revenge on mankind. Along his quest to defeat her, Hellboy uncovers a secret from his past (of course he does). Cosby hardly wavers from the typical comic book formula, right down to cheesy jokes and a final showdown.

Marshall is best known for directing the horror thriller “The Descent” and two memorable, battle-filled “Game of Thrones” episodes, so he clearly knows how to evoke epic scale on a limited budget. “Hellboy” hints at that sense of spectacle, like when he fights three famished giants in an open field. The characters move and clash with plausible heft, and there is an affable slapstick quality to the fight, even if it ends gruesomely. But for each imaginative sequence, there is a repetitive scene with little sense of imagination or surprise.

If anything, “Hellboy” is a testament to del Toro’s talents as a filmmaker. Through evocative creatures and production design, he created a more inventive world than what we typically see from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or its DC equivalent. There is a moment in this new film when Hellboy regrows his horns, wielding a fiery sword as he rides a huge beast and vanquishes the damned on hell’s surface. If a film’s best attempt at over-the-top imagery inspires little more than a halfhearted shrug, something has gone terribly wrong.

One and one-half stars. Rated R. Contains strong bloody violence and gore throughout, and crude language. 132 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

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