I can’t decide if the new and not-improved Hellboy’s so-bad-it’s-good, or just…good?

And that’s an essential part of what makes it passably, forgettably enjoyable.

There’s a consistently-inconsistent air of questionably self-aware silliness — are we sure the movie’s in on all its jokes? — that seems truer to the sensibility of the original comics than Marvel’s shtickily-canned, TOA (tired on arrival) nods to the genre’s tropes that they’re nevertheless still perpetuating — wink-winking so rigorously and relentlessly that everything and everyone goes blind, audience included. And unlike the obnoxious smattering of excruciatingly-never-ending set pieces that their movies are built around, Hellboy‘s fantastical action-adventure hijinks feel near-constant, zipping from one to the next, stopping along the way only for perfunctory, clunkily-expository dialogue (the downside of this breakneck episodic structure: a monotonous pace that concludes before you realize that we were building to a climax for the last 30 minutes).

Hellboy‘s a new sort of delightmare. Not an out and out delightful nightmare, as in it doesn’t induce sheer delight from constantly-nightmarish execution. Rather, it whipsaws between delights (the gore!) and nightmares (the nonstop over-reliance on visual effects).

Regarding that latter point: why do I exponentially prefer handmade creatures to their CGI counterparts, even when the design’s equally average? Is this a get off my lawn moment? To its credit, Hellboy brings to life larger-than-life spectacle of inhuman contortion that practical effects would have a hard time approximating. But old-school arts-and-crafts easily could’ve added oodles of personality to much of the life-sized character work. Even so, must the fight sequences look like cutscenes? Basically, I miss Doug Jones.

With all that being said, Hellboy could very well end up as my favorite superhero movie of 2019, the lowest of backhanded compliments.

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