Saturday, July 8, 2017

But I Digress... Bloody Hell: A Hellboy Reboot

By Cat

My love of comics goes back almost as far as I can remember. My dad had a huge collection of X-Men books, among others, when I was little. Sadly, those comics are all gone now; but my memories of listening to the radio while carefully turning the colorful pages will stick with me forever.

Needless to say, I started my own meager comic collection at a young age. I love the artwork and the stories, and there are characters dear to my heart for various reasons. My small collection isn’t anything grand or bank-worthy, but it’s priceless in sentimental value.

Where am I going with this? Ok so I did digress a little, but that’s the point here! I love comics and the shows and movies based on them. Some, of course, have been more successful than others. I commend the efforts all the same. It’s that concept that’s whirling around my head at the moment.

The latest comic book-to-screen announcement centers on the big red guy – Hellboy

It’s been nearly a decade since this particular devil fighting the darkness hit the screen. While I was aware of the character prior to the first two movies of Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), I wasn’t really an avid reader of that comic. All the same, I enjoyed those movies immensely. There was a certain magic that Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, The Strain, Crimson Peak) and Ron Perlman (Pacific Rim, Sons of Anarchy, Moonwalkers), along with the supporting cast, brought to the stories; infusing the tales with pathos and humor. 

The question of another sequel has been at the forefront of many fans’ minds in the years following. Perlman was well known as a champion of the Hellboy III cause. Alas, that vision won’t become a reality. Del Toro did, in fact, sit down with the powers that be and tried to hammer out the details to bring the endcap of his envisioned trilogy to the screen, but budget concerns seem to be what chimed its death knell.

Instead, a reboot ‘under new management’ was announced back in May of 2017. Cue the dramatic soap opera cliffhanger music in the background. (Dun dun DUNNNN!) Instead of revisiting the established story and bringing Del Toro’s apocalyptic prophecy to fruition, things are going to be switching gears – in an R-Rated direction with Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, which is the new film’s current working title.

See, this is where it got my attention. 

The success of other rated-R comic franchise features has dispelled that invisible wall of force that kept iconic comic characters in the bankable, but somewhat watered down, PG-13 range. While I’m sad that the creative team I love isn’t moving forward in this franchise, I seem to have a flicker of hope that I just may like this new movie in spite of my internal outcry of ‘not another reboot!’
(I mean seriously, WTF Hollywood.)

So let’s take a look at what we know so far. The Hellboy comic was created by Mike Mignola in 1993. Mignola was the first to announce the franchise relaunch on his Facebook in early May. He’s actively involved in the project - from drafting a version of the script, to championing the new director and cast, among other things. 

Who’s going to be helming this bloodier version, and who could possibly step into Perlman’s massive Big Red shoes? Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Centurion, Game of Thrones) is slated to direct with David Harbour (Snitch, The Newsroom, Suicide Squad) taking the title role. Fresh off of his role as the sheriff in Stranger Things (2016-), I can see elements of what would make him appealing in this role. Most sources, as well as IMDb cite him to be ‘rumored’ or in talks for the part still. I’m fairly sure that he’s landed the role, considering they’re fitting him for the Hand of Doom prosthetic in one of his Instagram photos. 

A post shared by David Harbour (@dkharbour) on

So far, Harbour does seem to have a grasp on the essence of Big Red. He was quoted in an article on TheWrap as saying, “He’s another complicated antihero who is not strictly good or bad, he’s just trying to do the right thing. I think he’s a demon, he’s crazy, and he’s also sweet and vulnerable and neurotic […] so there’s a lot of complexity there.”

I think I might just be able to get behind this. 

You might think that Perlman would be salty about the nuking of his plans to reprise the iconic role – especially after the social media campaign he and Del Toro conducted to gauge fan interest and his frequent rallying messages. Reality seems to point to the opposite, however; and it’s been said that he’s even figuratively ‘passed the torch’ over to his successor, Harbour.

Dreadcentral reported that Perlman addressed this at a Motor City Comic Con panel, saying “David Harbour is a good dude. I wish him nothing but the best when it comes to the retooling of HB.” Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return) even hosted what Perlman referred to as a 'detente dinner' to show the world that there isn't a beef between the former and newly minted embodiments of the role. 

Image Source: Movieweb
What can we expect from this new movie? All signs point in the direction of a return to the essence of the source material. I happened upon a podcast interview with director, Neil Marshall, which was cited in an article on Movieweb. I popped over to listen to the interview in its entirety, and they start talking about Hellboy in the last 10 minutes or so. 

I found it refreshing that he said "…when you go back to the original materials, it is kinda bloody so I'm going to embrace that…" in response to a query regarding the freedom of the R-Rating.

Marshall is fresh off of directing some premium television shows for the likes of Netflix and HBO, but has been yearning to direct another feature for some time. He favors doing as many practical effects as possible so that CGI expands the world rather than replacing it, and is known for brilliant action sequences in his work. He’s even a fan of the horror genre; but also cites Star Wars (1977) as sparking his love of movies when he was young, and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) as fueling his desire to make them. 

Director Neil Marshall behind the scenes on The Descent (2005)

This new horroresque vision of this retooling, is also reinforced by screenwriter Andrew Cosby (Eureka, Haunted, 2 Guns) in his exclusive interview with Silverscreenbeat. He had this to say about the tone of the new movie: “... I can say that this is a darker, more gruesome version of Hellboy... Neil said from the very beginning that he wanted to walk a razor’s edge between horror and comic book movie, which was music to my ears, because that’s what I was shooting for in the script, and precisely what Mignola does so well with the comics.”

Filming for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen is said to start this coming fall in Bulgaria. A release date hasn’t yet been announced but it is said that the script is done. With writers and producers lined up and Lionsgate poised to distribute, it seems like this production will be getting off the ground sooner rather than later. 

When I first heard the news, I must admit that I was upset and even angry that the original storyline wouldn't be finished, in spite of all the campaigning and hopes of Perlman, Del Toro, and many fans. Though, in searching out the pieces to this puzzling turn of events, I find that I am reluctantly looking forward to this new movie; and can only hope that the production team utilizes all of the tools at their disposal to make this epic. Otherwise, failure might send this beloved franchise straight to the hell its titular character hails from.

Mike Mignola's Official Site Found Here.

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

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