The first trailer for the forthcoming Hellboy reboot dropped today, giving us our first, fiery look at director Neil Marshall's darker, grittier vision for the popular Dark Horse Comics superhero.
Writer/artist Mike Mignola's Hellboy comics have already been adapted into two feature films—Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)—both starring Ron Perlman with Guillermo del Toro at the helm. So why are we getting a reboot? Del Toro had planned on making a third installment, but he preferred his own script over Andrew Cosby's and left the project. Perlman didn't want to make another sequel without the director. So the film became a reboot instead, with David Harbour (Stranger Things) stepping into the lead role.
Hellboy is a half-demon from Hell who was summoned to Earth as a baby by Nazi occultists and raised by a surrogate human father, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm. He's the head of the US Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.), in case you forgot. The adult Hellboy is basically a big red devil with cloven hooves, a tail, filed-off horns, and the Right Hand of Doom (made of stone). It makes him a formidable asset to the B.P.R.D. The first Hellboy film was an origin story, as we follow the character from his first days on Earth as an infant to grappling with his destiny as the bringer of the apocalypse.
For the reboot, Hellboy is already full grown and working alongside Bruttenholm (Ian McShane, American Gods) at the B.P.R.D. He's dutifully taking on the forces of evil like a good soldier, even if the humans he's trying to help are sometimes less than collegial. "I thought we were supposed to be fighting monsters, not working with them," Major Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim, Lost) complains.
Given the prominence of Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) as the ancient sorceress Nimue (aka the Blood Queen), the film seems like it will draw upon a few classic narrative arcs from the comics ("Darkness Calls," "The Wild Hunt," and "The Storm and the Fury" in particular). And it looks like Hellboy will once again tap into his power as Anung un Rama ("and upon his brow is set a crown of flame") at some point, complete with horns and flaming crown.
Screenwriter Crosby (Eureka) has said he wanted his Hellboy to be darker and more gruesome than the earlier films—hence the reboot's R rating. "Neil [Mitchell] 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," he told We Got This Covered in 2016.
We certainly get a taste of that in the trailer—there's plenty of action, hellfire, and bloody warfare, plus Hellboy's trademark wisecracks. Harbour is a wonderful actor, with great delivery, and he looks every inch the role, but Perlman's iconic portrayal is a tough act to follow. The biggest issue is that the original Hellboy fans really wanted a third film to continue del Toro's signature vision and legacy. They're not getting it, and this trailer might not be enough to win them over.
Hellboy hits theaters April 19, 2019.