Yesterday brought the stunning news that Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is receiving a reboot with The Descent director Neil Marshall helming the film and “Stranger Things” star David Harbour as the titular character. The news sent shockwaves through the film community, many of whom have been begging for Hellboy 3 with Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman, the duo behind the first two entries. Alas, that train left the station a while ago…
So what does this mean? How should we approach this news? Like with all things, it’s best to come at it from a bird’s eye perspective, to see things from above and not make rash decisions. For many, this news is a bitter disappointment. For others, it’s a fresh start, a chance to see this world come to life anew.
For me, I’m caught in the middle, both upset and joyous. So let me share with you what’s going through my head in the hopes that we can all open a discussion.
Let’s get the sad stuff out of the way first, okay? As a fan of Guillermo del Toro and his films, this is heartbreaking. When del Toro becomes attached to a project, it’s obvious that he puts his heart and soul into bringing it to life. He’s not just a filmmaker, he’s a fan, which is what makes his movies so endearing and exciting. He doesn’t create them from solely the perspective of a director, he creates them with a foot firmly planted in the perspective of the audience and how they will ultimately see the film. When he takes on a project, he knows that the magic of filmmaking and the magic of seeing a film are two radically different beasts. But his strong point is that he knows how to tame each of them, resulting in films that are wonderfully orchestrated while also being a delight to take in.
When del Toro brought us his visions of Hellboy, it was clear that he had a vision, a overarching story that couldn’t be encompassed in one film. Following the arc of Hellboy alone is a magnificent journey. In the first film, he suffers the loss of his father and attempts to win back the heart of Selma Blair’s Liz Sherman. He has to learn how to be a leader while also facing the greatest threat that’s crossed his path. In the second film, Hellboy is struggling with his newfound responsibilities and his want to be accepted by the world he lives in but has to hide from. Furthermore, his relationship with Liz is on rocky ground as she herself hides the fact that she’s pregnant.
For two films that follow a demonic entity that fights for the forces of good, there are a wide array of human elements and emotions that make them immediate and relatable. We all know grief. We all know the feeling of wanting to be accepted. We all know heartbreak. These are universal themes and del Toro proved that they transcend our world and are present even for the denizens of Hell. For many, that thought was hugely comforting.
Sadly, we won’t get to know what transformations Hellboy and the rest of the B.P.R.D. will go through. We won’t see the arc culminate for Hellboy, which is sad because Hellboy II: the Golden Army teased and tantalized audiences during the Angel of Death sequence, where Liz is told after choosing to help Hellboy live even in the face of a dire warning, “…the time will come when you, my dear, will suffer more than anyone.”
The knowledge of her pregnancy and that she is in love with a demonic creature, no matter how good he might be (after all, he almost succumbed to evil in the first film), raises all sorts of questions and concerns. What does the Angel of Death mean? What tragedies await Liz and, by extension, Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. in the future? What will happen to their children? These questions, and more, will never get answered. That is what stings the most. It’s like reading a book that draws you into its world and enchants you with its story and characters only for you to find out that the last chapter has been torn out.
It should also be noted that Ron Perlman wasn’t a man in a costume. He was Hellboy. He took that role and embodied it with perfection, just as Doug Jones as Abe Sapien was charming and funny. Seeing others in those roles won’t be easy, that’s for sure.
The world created by Guillermo del Toro is nothing short of wondrous. It felt alive, it felt real, and it felt like magic and wonder was a part of our world, hiding just beyond our sight, lurking past the reach of our fingertips. It was a fairy tale for adults, plain and simple.
I’m not saying that everything I’ve written about will be absent from Marshall’s offering. I’m just saying that a reboot means del Toro’s story will go unfinished. And that’s a heartbreaking reality.
For as sad as I am that del Toro and Perlman won’t be back for Hellboy 3, I am thrilled that we’re getting another Hellboy movie. The tales of the B.P.R.D. are exciting and lend themselves to wondrous opportunities, which could make for some truly entertaining films. Plus, while I love del Toro’s world and will miss it tremendously, the universe Mike Mignola has expanded upon since Hellboy’s premiere in 1993 is rich and varied. There’s a lot to pull from, so there’s no reason to expect that we won’t get eye candy galore.
David Harbour is a brilliant actor, let’s just make that clear. His work as Sheriff Hopper in “Stranger Things” is nuanced, exciting, and engaging. He quickly, and deservedly, became a fan favorite; and there’s no denying that he has the right build for the part. By all indications, he’s going to make a great Hellboy.
The R rating is also an interesting and rather specific mention. There’s no denying that Mignola’s Hellboy series can become quite violent, but there’s always a cheeky surreal humor about it (case in point). I’m not so much skeptical here as I am curious. Besides, all of Marshall’s films have been rated R, so the man clearly knows how to work within that rating.
Speaking of Marshall, he’s shown his ability across a wide variety of subgenres within horror. The Descent was a suspenseful creature slasher while Dog Soldiers was a black horror/comedy that featured practically made werewolves. Doomsday was an exciting mishmash that blended, well… damn near everything! Its scope was massive and Marshall made it totally believable. And while that movie may have taken us into the future, Centurion took us WAY into the past. These examples don’t even touch upon his work in television on shows like “Hannibal,” “Westworld,” “Constantine,” or “Game of Thrones.”
Marshall has the ability to bring any world he’s offered to life, that cannot be denied. So knowing that he’s going to be behind Hellboy is not something to be concerned with. Quite the opposite in fact. I would be hard-pressed to think of another director who appears to be as qualified as Marshall.
All I want is for this film to be good. Yes, I’m going to have to live with my disappointment, but I now have a reason to be excited. For those who wish to live in the former, I don’t begrudge you that. I mourn with you. But I also understand those that fall into the latter group because this just means more Hellboy, which is always a good time.
Until we start seeing actual footage, I recommend we all wait before passing judgment. Oh, and definitely use this time to read the comics and stories. Why not get caught up with the B.P.R.D. before the movie comes out?