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David Harbour takes up the mantle of Hellboy, based on the graphic novels where a demon battles the supernatural. USA TODAY

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Hellboy is back on the big screen, and while things haven’t gone to, well, hell, the new film doesn’t exactly put the comic-book brawler in a heavenly place.

After Guillermo del Toro’s well-received pair of films in the 2000s that starred Ron Perlman, director Neil Marshall (“The Descent”) reboots the franchise with “Stranger Things” star David Harbour as the crimson-skinned half-demon superhero with the mighty Right Hand of Doom and testy personality. However, this “Hellboy” (★★ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday) leans more into super-gory horror comedy than its predecessors, trading nuance for ripped-off limbs and boasting as much subtlety as a stone fist to the face.

Decades after being summoned from below, courtesy of a Nazi occult experiment, Hellboy is a horned, hard-nosed investigator of note for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. When he’s not trading barbs with his boss (and father figure) Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane), Big Red is wrestling vampires in Mexico or beating down giants in rural England.

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He’s trying hard to be good but Hellboy is also supposed to bring upon the end of the world – a bugaboo he wrestles with constantly that also puts him in the crosshairs for good guys and monstrous villains alike. One of the latter is Nimue the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), a powerful witch chopped up back in the day by King Arthur who comes back together, Humpty Dumpty style, in modern times. She now woos Hellboy over to her side in order to way to lay waste to civilization.

Just like Big Red’s travel schedule, “Hellboy” is kind of all over the place, with two hours' worth of adventures (and misadventures) that never gel cohesively and momentum-killing flashback origin stories for pretty much every main character. What’s most frustrating are the fleeting moments of awesomeness that show what the film could have been, like a really neat, retro-pulpy and all-too-short sequence featuring earnest throwback hero Lobster Johnson (Thomas Haden Church) dealing with some Nazis.

And “Hellboy” really takes off when our hero teams up with Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane), a medium Hellboy saved as a child and a spark plug for a plodding narrative, and Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), who can turn into a werejaguar (not even kidding) yet has considerable disdain for his brusque new partner. Hellboy is fine as a solo act but he’s better bouncing off a team.

Del Toro’s movies were noteworthy in the way they married monster-movie tropes and really goofy character moments, and Perlman added real heart and soul to his Hellboy. Harbour, who does the same with his small-town cop in “Stranger Things,” is hit-and-miss here, though he’s got the character’s irascible, hangdog nature down at least. This Hellboy is a leaky faucet of one-liners: Some are clever and land perfectly, while with others, he’s the only one laughing.

The various monsters that pepper the film, from mischievous fairies to pig-headed humanoid creatures, are a mixed bag. Baba Yaga is a frightful supporting villainess, and there are a bunch of supernatural beasts attacking London that weirdly feel inspired by del Toro’s work. A lot of them lean B-grade, though, and the effects are iffy at times: Without saying too much, Hellboy has a heartfelt conversation in one scene with something that resembles a human up top and a strange, snaky ghost sausage below that’s hard to take seriously.

“Hellboy” goes to great lengths setting up a new franchise, though it’s obvious the big guy’s got a lot to learn before his next monster mash.

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