Guillermo del Toro's two Hellboy films struggled at the box office, but both movies reviewed quite well when they were released. The box office prospects of the newly rebooted Hellboy have yet to be realized, but on the review side of things...it's not going well. Just hours before the first general audiences get a look at the new Hellboy, the movie sits with a Rotten Tomatoes score of an abysmal (demon joke) 12%.
Specifically, as of this writing, that number represents 60 total reviews, with only seven of them qualifying as positive. That's actually a fairly small number of reviews for a wide release film that's expected to be the biggest opener of the weekend. However, in many markets, press were not given screenings of the film prior to release, so a lot of critics simply haven't seen the film yet. Of course, when critics aren't given screenings, that's frequently a sign of something bad, and the reviews that have come out have clearly confirmed that.
Still, there are always movies that critics don't love, but 88% of critics disliking a movie is quite a feat. For comparison, that puts Hellboy a point below Tyler Perry's A Medea Family Funeral which scored a 13% positive score. It's bringing up the rear for this weekend's major releases. Laika's Missing Link is sitting at a healthy 89% while the comedy Little isn't fairing well, but with a 52% score it looks like an Oscar contender compared to Hellboy.
There was a time when we expected genre material based on comic books to not be great. It was frequently reviewed poorly whether or not it found an audience. However, these days we're much more used to seeing this sort of material actually turn out well. The reasons that Hellboy has crashed so hard with critics are as varied as the critics themselves. The CGI is bad. The story is a mess. The characters go nowhere. It's all sizzle and no steak. If you like over the top violence with a story that seemingly goes everywhere at once, then maybe this is the movie for you after all.
Of course, it remains to be seen if any of this actually matters. While audiences and critics tend to be in rough alignment more often than people realize, the fact is that the two sides can certainly diverge. Critics can love movies that audiences don't bother with, this happens frequently with "awards bait" movies in the last quarter of the year, and audiences can embrace movies that critics hate. In the end, it's the audience response that will determine whether Hellboy is truly a success, or if it becomes the beginning of the new franchise is obviously would like to be.
There will likely be an influx of additional reviews for Hellboy as more critics see the film over opening weekend, but there's certainly no reason to expect a massive change in the overall response. If the film was on the border between "Fresh" and "Rotten" a couple decent reviews might make the difference, but that's far from where this one finds itself.
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