As excellent as I still think the 2004 Hellboy adaptation starring Ron Pearlman is, looking back often makes me wonder what it would look like in today’s comic film renaissance. 2004’s version still played by the rules of the time, where any comic movie needed to ground itself in reality because obviously, audiences won’t respond to something overly comic-y. Hence X-Men all dressed in black and Fantastic Four stories that never bring them to space.
(Wow do movie studios look a bit foolish now.)
So what would the Guillermo del Toro/Pearlman Hellboy look like today? Probably something like this right here.
2019’s reboot, directed by Neil Marshall and starring David Harbour in the lead role, embraces the more over-the-top aspects of Red’s popular comic history. The monsters are huge and creative. Milla Jovovich’s main villain is a powerful sorceress of absurd power. Hellboy wields giant swords that slice through creatures in bloody swaths. And hey, cursing! Just like the adults do! Can you imagine that in a comic book movie in 2004?
Overall it looks like a movie aiming for its recently labeled R rating. Is this good or bad? We’ll see, but if nothing else I can count on some gore and good old adult content to distract throughout. It makes a difference sometimes. Perhaps I’m too nostalgic about Pearlman and del Toro’s version, but this movie has a tough example to live up to. Thankfully it seems to be going its own way rather than play safe and copy the previous versions. And that gives me hope.
Although, I can’t finish this without mentioning how silly and cheesy some of the dialogue is. Was that the intention? I’m curious to find out. I’m also hoping Hellboy’s partners turn out at least half as good as Abe Sapien and Liz.
Hellboy hits theaters on April 12.