Another trailer for Neil Marshall’s Hellboy, out on April 12, has appeared and at least it seems to have differentiated itself from Guillermo del Toro’s films featuring the same character, although not exactly in a good way.
Del Toro’s films, particularly 2008’s Hellboy: The Golden Army, were clearly the work of an imaginative and creative director building on the concept of characters created by Mike Mignola with character celebrating its 25th anniversary. That film was packed with memorable scenes featuring a cast of fantastical but endearing characters. The troll market scene, which features a cornucopia of fantastical creatures mostly realised with practical special effects work is a distinct highlight. This contrasts rather massively with what’s been shown so far of the new Hellboy which features David Harbour attempting to make the character his own under the looming shadow of Ron Perlman’s previous performance as the character.
This new trailer definitely makes it seem like it could be an entertaining time at the cinema, Hellboy riding a skeletal dragon whilst wielding a flaming sword is pretty damn cool, but everything seems slathered in, not very good looking, digital fx. There seems to be little in the way of explaining the set up of the world or who the characters are, whether it’s Millia Jovovich’s Nimue, who is apparently the villain of the piece, or Daniel Dae Kim as a werejaguar. The trailers have so far made it seem all style but very little substance, so intent on showing off a parade of ‘cool stuff’ they’ve oddly avoided any signs that there’s memorable characters or an engrossing story or world to be found here
A proposed Hellboy III was in limbo for years ( because del Toro lost interest in the franchise according to producer Lloyd Levin) before the new film was announced. Hellboy aka ‘Big Red’ is still arguably the character many associate Ron Perlman with, his portrayal gaining him legions of fans, Perlman has talked about his frustration of the third film never materialising and how Hellboy was this obscure character nobody knew about. Neil Marshall’s film will undoubtedly benefit from del Toro introducing the character to millions of people who would otherwise be utterly oblivious to the existence of Hellboy. As Marvel Studios continues to be a box office juggernaut it’s easy to forget the world of U.S comics is tiny, the number one selling selling US comic for January 2019 sold a little over 116,000 copies.
The main selling point for this new film seems to be ‘it’s more like the comics’ and ‘this one is R rated’, neither of these things in and of themselves mean a film is going to be good. Arguably being ‘more like the comics’ could be problem for people unfamiliar with the comics. Introducing and establishing a fantastical world, the characters that inhabit that world and their various relationship dynamics without it seeming impenetrable to people who aren’t already fans and actually still being enjoyable isn’t easy. Time will tell on whether the new Hellboy will kickstart a new franchise or just be another name in the ever growing list of comic to film adaptations.