With Lionsgate favorites to produce Neil Marshall’s upcoming remake of Hellboy, fans of the franchise and character are split. To many observers, Guillermo del Toro’s two titles in 2004 (Hellboy) and 2008 (Hellboy II: The Golden Army) showcased the best of Big Red as Ron Perlman offered a wry sense of humor and action chops to make the comic book icon relevant on the big screen.
Now Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen will see a new filmmaker, new studio and new set of cast members try and take the subject material and transform it into a smash hit. This is all the more difficult given the stronghold of Marvel and DC in the superhero genre, leaving those in charge the task of creating a feature that is unique, gritty and memorable.
Plenty of people have come out and criticized the choice of David Harbour in the lead role. The line in the sand choice has left Perlman out in the cold alongside del Toro who will forever be denied an opportunity to complete his trilogy. To some loyalists, this is a terrible sin.
For all the love and hate posted on social media, there are ample questions about the project. From the narrative to the core casting, budget, studio, and timeline. Fans have been left none the wiser. There are reasons to believe a fresh adaptation would be a fantastic chance to venture where del Toro didn’t, but an equally frightening prospect of Marshall dropping the ball and destroying a beloved series for good.
Here are 7 reasons why Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen will fail, and 8 why it will be an outright success.
15 Success - David Harbour
David Harbour is not considered an A-list performer in Hollywood right now. Prior to the Netflix smash hit series Stranger Things, few had ever heard of the name or even seen the face before. Yet the 43-year old New York native has been a diligent actor in his own right, venturing way back to 2004 with his role in Kinsey.
Since that time, Harbour has been a reliable supporting player for features including Brokeback Mountain, War of the Worlds, Quantum of Solace, The Green Hornet, X/Y, The Equalizer, Black Mass and Suicide Squad. Many forget that Perlman was far from a box office presence when he suited up for Big Red, going onto higher acclaim when he scored a leading role for Sons of Anarchy off the back of del Toro’s creation.
Harbour has the physical presence to carry out the fighting sequences and character to give the superhero some grounding. Marvel considered him one of their top contenders to land Cable for Deadpool 2 before it would reside with Josh Brolin. This will be his chance to prove them wrong.
14 Fail - Lack Of Guillermo del Toro
Passing up the chance to have Guillermo del Toro in this instalment is a huge mistake by Lionsgate or whichever studio does end up holding the rights for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. Reports suggest the Mexican filmmaker gave Mignola an ultimatum – either he remains as a key part of the production process or he walks. Needless to say, the two are not on the best of terms as the 52-year old focuses on other projects.
Del Toro’s gift in directing has been there for all to see, developing his unique brand of weird and quirky science-fiction flicks that continue to deliver what no one has thought was possible. Whether it be his 1993 debut title Cronos, the 1997 follow up Mimic, Blade II, Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim or the 2006 critical smash hit Pan’s Labyrinth, this rebooted motion picture can only be poorer for del Toro’s absence.
13 Success - R-Rating
R-rated superhero movies are a developing trend that Hollywood cannot ignore – no matter how hard many of the mainstream studios desperately try. One title in Spawn attempted to break the mold during the late 1990s, but with a complicated screenplay, messy graphics and a lack of commercial tie-in with box office audiences, it would take Blade’s release some years later before the genre began to take a foothold.
Now by 2017, Marvel’s gamble on Deadpool and Logan have made the R-rated comic book adaptation a no-brainer on many levels. 20th Century Fox understood that there is a market for adult-related content and catered to it. Simple.
Fortunately for us, Hellboy: The Rise of the Blood Queen is said to follow in this same dark, gritty and violent manner. This was something of a drawback for del Toro who was limited with his safer PG-13 takes during the mid-2000s, so the lack of regulations on this front is an exciting development.
12 Fail - Ron Perlman Isn't Involved
67-year old Perlman might not be a hot, young box office attraction for studios to seek. In fact, the New York local has never fit that profile. He made a name for himself with a part in 1992’s Sleepwalkers before going onto feature in The Adventures of Huck Finn, Double Exposure, The City of Lost Children, Alien: Resurrection, Enemy at the Gates and Star Trek: Nemesis.
Whether it be an indie drama, action blockbuster, low budget thriller or just turning up to the set as a supporting hand, Perlman has brought a genuine presence every time he appears on the screen. When 2004’s Hellboy came along, this was his chance to revel in the spotlight and he took it with both hands.
The franchise will do incredibly well to make audiences move on from his portrayal of Big Red. Perlman’s ability to deliver his dry sense of humor and integrate it into a character that can be as charming as he is terrifying is a unique quality. Taking that element away will only make Marshall’s task that little bit more difficult.
11 Success - Great Comic Book Villains To Pick From
Given that The Rise of the Blood Queen will be a reimagining of the universe as a whole, then those villains who were utilized in the original movies can get a makeover. Looking over the array of bad guys and girls in the printed editions, Lionsgate, Marshall and the screenwriters have a ton of subject material on which to base a narrative that will work. Whether they opt for a standalone title or build it towards a trilogy arc – Hellboy will have his hands full.
From Adolf Hitler to Captain Blackbeard, Asmodeus, Brutus, Jenny Greenteeth, Lu, Conqueror Worm, Black Annis, Baba Yaga, Dagda, Dr. Carp, Hecate, Koschei the Deathless, Henry Hood, Grigori Rasputin, Brainiape, Bog Roosh, Anubis, Igor Bromhead or Herman Von Klempt – there is a plethora of villains to choose from. They all range from World War II Nazi era to Cold War tensions and modern day monsters. It’s a dream selection choice for the filmmakers.
10 Fail - Initial Plans And Deliberation
Mignola’s recent admission that he wanted the new director to pick up where del Toro left off could be classified as a bombshell. Speaking with Nerdist this month, he recalled how he wanted the franchise to continue, indicating that he did not back Marshall to fulfill his own take from the get-go.
"We originally started trying to tie it to the del Toro universe and continue those movies. But once we had Neil Marshall, we thought, 'Why are we going to try and continue that universe?' Because a del Toro movie is a del Toro movie, and you don't want to try and hand a del Toro movie to someone else. Especially someone as great as Neil Marshall. So that's when it went from being this continuation to being a reboot. It's exciting to have another director. It's exciting to take another path, to take that material and give it another leaning."
That is all true. But if it was so exciting, why not implement a reboot from day one?
9 Success - They Don't Want To Overuse CGI
If Neil Marshall is to be believed, then he will tone down the use of CGI to utilize the technology only when necessary. For a genre that so often leans on the help and assistance of computer generated action sequences and characters to maximize the experience, the filmmaker understands that a picture will be more grounded if they use their instincts and back their talent.
“It’s definitely going to be as practical as we can possibly make it,” he told the Post Mortem podcast earlier this year. “I love to do stuff in camera whenever I possibly can, and use CG as the amazing tool that it is, to enhance or expand upon the world, but not to use it to replace reality, when you can do it (for) real.”
The bottom line is that there are not enough of these kinds of directors out there. With television series growing in popularity without the need to revert to CGI, directors for large features have to up their game and Marshall is following suit. This is a positive sign of things to come.
8 Fail - It's Just Another Reboot
Universally popular movie franchises in 2017 rarely, if ever, derives from a fresh concept that hasn’t already been hashed out by now. Take note of Jurassic World, Resident Evil, Terminator, Predator, Planet of the Apes, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man. Then there are those that moonlight as sequels and prequels – Rambo, Halloween, The Matrix, Friday the 13th and Star Wars.
Seldom will a picture like Baby Driver come along to cleanse the palate and remind us all that there are filmmakers out there who are ready, willing and able to create something that hasn’t been fizzed through the regeneration machine simply to make more cents on the dollar.
Unfortunately Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, no matter how different it will be from del Toro’s series, will have the ‘reboot’ tag planted all over it. This is a burden they have to deal with as drastic changes will be seen as a cynical ploy of differentiating themselves from those titles. If they stick true, then it is remaking the same material. An unenviable position to be in.
7 Success - At The Box Office
The numbers do not tell the whole story for a film or franchise – just take Michael Bay’s Transformers series as a case in point. Earning over $4.2b from five features that began with a 57% fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating in 2007 before falling to 15% via Transformers: The Last Knight, Paramount Pictures are clearly avoiding any critical responsibility that an instalment of that scope would normally warrant. This is unchartered territory.
So in that spirit, the studio is almost guaranteed of finishing in the black with Marshall’s new adaptation regardless. The original Hellboy enjoyed a modest gate taking from theaters 13 years ago when Columbia scored $99.3m from their $66m budget. Fast forward 4 years and the dividends were even bigger for Universal as the switch of hands saw them pick up $160.4m for Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
So long as the casting is well rounded and the marketing department fulfills their duties, the box office results should look after themselves.
6 Fail - Silverlance Spinoff Was Cancelled
One of the more intriguing characters to emerge from the Hellboy world was that of the aquatic superhero Abe Sapien. An incredibly intelligent being and able offsider to Big Red, this comic book creation was intended to be the focus of a unique spinoff from del Toro and co. But screenwriter Peter Briggs told the press earlier this year that the concept had to die a natural death.
"I was working with Richard Taylor at Weta in New Zealand back then, and discussed the possibility of doing this with Weta with Richard," he wrote on Facebook. "I started working on an outline with my Los Angeles-based Panzer 88 co-writer Aaron Mason while still in New Zealand. It was called Hellboy: Silverlance, and we solved the 'Nuada Problem.' Although we never really discussed it as such it really was a 'B.P.R.D.' movie. The aquatic Abe Sapien was the main character, and Hellboy still featured fairly prominently in it. I suppose you could liken it to a Suicide Squad situation: Batman was in there, but the story wasn't really about him. Aaron and I turned it in. Universal really wanted to proceed with it, but after further discussions at the studio it was apparent a Hellboy 3 was still on the cards for the studio and more of a priority, so Silverlance got back-burnered. I figured that was the end of that."
5 Success - Neil Marshall
The studio executives would have made a grave error by opting for a safe pair of hands for this adventure. Any Hellboy blockbuster has to take some educated gambles creatively speaking in order to make sure there is a crucial point of difference between itself and other superhero properties that have flooded the marketplace. In Neil Marshall, they have likely found the candidate who fits that exact profile.
The 47-year old Englishman has a diverse background of films and television shows on his CV. From his 2002 debut effort Dog Soldiers to The Descent and Centurion, Marshall’s attentions shifted to the smaller screen where he would be working with A-list talent. This included stints on programs like Game of Thrones, Black Sails, Constantine, Hannibal and HBO’s Westworld for the episode ‘The Stray.’
He might not carry the same heavyweight reputation of certain compatriots, but this will have Marshall hungry to prove himself as a genuine filmmaker that should be recognized and respected.
4 Fail - Would You Rather See Perlman's 3rd Rendition?
Earlier this year, Perlman told Dread Central how Hellboy 3 would have rounded out the trilogy with a satisfying conclusion. Finishing what they started with the 2004 edition that scored a huge amount of fanfare, the actor was clearly crestfallen over Mike Mignola’s choice to overlook Guillermo del Toro’s vision for the project.
"The third one was meant to be epic and conclusive and a resolve for all these, almost, Greek Oracle promises of the destiny of Hellboy. It would've made for a really good movie, I think,” Perlman outlined to the website.
Leaving the series without the ends tied up leaves a sour taste for those that have enjoyed the ride to this juncture. Of course, many of those same people will tune in to watch what Marshall can do with a clean slate, but the missed opportunity is not lost on the people that would have carried it out. The Golden Army laid a platform for a third instalment, but it will be one of the great regrets left unfinished.
3 Success - Lionsgate
Studios can seem like a dime a dozen from a distance. Run by rich men in smart business attire, similar decisions are made around franchising, marketing and distribution as everyone gets their slice of the pie. Yet Lionsgate Pictures enjoy a healthy track record for movies of this type and history suggests that their likely acquisition to the rights of Hellboy might be able to usher in a new era of edgy comic book titles.
From American Psycho to the Saw franchise, Dogma, Kick-Ass, The Lincoln Lawyer, The Hunger Games series, Hacksaw Ridge, Patriots Day, La La Land and John Wick: Chapter 2, founder Frank Giustra’s creation has helped to produce some of the best films in modern times. If they can capture that magic for this feature, then Hellboy is onto a winner.
2 Fail - Screenwriters
To date, Andrew Crosby is one of the only screenwriters listed to be on the project. His background for many years has centered around the comics, working through labels like Malibu, Dark Horse, and Stranger Comics. His motion picture CV though is limited, helping to outline the 2013 action title 2 Guns before co-creating Syfy’s series Eureka.
He told the press that a screenplay had been written and certified. But he left the door open for changes to occur – whether they be small or seismic.
"Honestly, everyone has just been working overtime to bring that Mignola magic to the big screen," the writer explains. "The script is done, but work will continue as we move forward, always trying to make it the best it can be."
Saying that the movie will walk the line between horror and a superhero instalment, there are few details of the backroom staff that can be discussed. The director and cast can only work with a narrative that is cohesive and if that task is left to those without the necessary experience, then questions need to be asked.
1 Success - Mike Mignola
For all the chatter about Perlman, del Toro, this studio, that studio – Hellboy is Mike Mignola’s baby. It was his concept that would arrive on paper, develop into a comic book legend and transition onto the big screen. Everything else is simply smoke and mirrors and in an age where Marvel and DC hold all the aces, it is refreshing to have someone of Mignola’s talents molding a world that is truly worthy of standing alone.
The 56-year old will have full creative control over the venture, leaving Marshall to shoot the scenes and implement the comic book creator’s vision. Having his input is not just a bonus – it is necessary. From the spinoffs including Abe Sapien, Lobster Johnson, B.P.R.D. Sledgehammer 44 and Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, Mignola lives and breathes Hellboy.
There are no excuses for the reboot to fail now that Mignola will be the architect behind the scenes. He can put his finger on the dial anytime he feels as though the direction is straying from the task at hand.
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