Guillermo del Toro knows how to create a dark but beautiful atmosphere. He played with the Victorian Gothic in Crimson Peak (2015), and almost ten years earlier with the warped fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). Who better to take on not one, but two big screen adaptations of Mike Mingola’s iconic comic book creation, Hellboy?
Conceived by a 17th Century English witch and a demon from Hell, Hellboy is summoned to Earth by Nazis in the final months of World War Two, in an act of desperation by the occult wing of the SS. However, the Allied forces arrive on time and are able to close the portal and stop the Nazis. When it seems like nothing has happened, the allies notice a horned, red, young boy with a stone arm who appears harmless. Dr. Trevor Bruttenholm, an allied scientist with an interest in the occult, adopts the young boy, named by the allied forces as “Hellboy.”
As an adult Hellboy joins the secret Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) — a group founded by Dr. Bruttenholm to investigate the occult, paranormal and supernatural, and defend against their dangers. Although with strong connections to the US military, it is an independent organization — albeit that receives large amounts of funding from the United States and Great Britain.
At the BPRD, Hellboy (who as an adult shaves his cumbersome horns down), is the “world’s greatest paranormal investigator,” and given the dubious title of “honorary human” by the United Nations. To aid Hellboy’s paranormal missions, his has the help of Abe Sapien, an academic humanoid amphibian and Liz Sherman, a volatile pyrokinetic.
Del Toro oversaw two adaptations of Hellboy, with Ron Perlman playing the devilish protagonist. The first, released in 2004, named Hellboy, opened to positive reviews and a decent box office take. The sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) had the same reception. A third film remained in limbo for a long time, before Del Toro became involved with The Hobbit trilogy and, afterwards, the Pacific Rim universe. Studios didn’t seem to view a third Hellboy film as a good investment. Del Toro remarked in a 2014 Reddit AMA that; “I think the first movie made its budget back, and a little bit of profit, but then it was very, very big on video and DVD. The story repeated itself with the second already, it made its money back at the box office, but a small margin of profit in the release of the theatrical print, but was very very big on DVD and video. Sadly now from a business point of view all the studios know is that you don’t have that safety net of the DVD and video, so they view the project as dangerous.”
However, in that same year, a script was penned for a third film, just not authored by Del Toro. Although offered the chance to produce, Del Toro wanted to write and direct his own script, so he declined. Ron Perlman, who would only return to a Hellboy film under Del Toro, declined to sign on for the next film.
Without either Del Toro or Perlman, studoes decided the film should be a reboot of the series. Aiming for a release in 2019, Hellboy stars David Harbour (Chief Hopper of Stranger Things) as Hellboy. The film promises to present a “darker, more gruesome version of Hellboy,” which is interesting since Guillermo Del Toro’s version wasn’t exactly light fare! But it isn’t 2019 yet, so I’ll stop being so judgmental before we’ve even seen a trailer!