A little over a month ago, fans of the Hellboy film series got some amazing news followed promptly by what was likely massive disappointment: A new Hellboy feature was in the early stages of preproduction! BUT, it would be the first film in a totally new series that has nothing to do with the now cult classics staring Ron Perlman.
I’m one of those fans. I loved the first two films and felt Ron was as perfect a casting choice as there could have been, with captain of the ship, Guillermo del Toro, doing a solid job adapting – albeit very loosely at times – while inflicting his signature style across the franchise. The key is that both offerings were good comic book movies before we as the movie-going masses even knew what good comic book movies were. But this time around, the bar is quite a bit higher.
So, embracing the wonders modern cinema has to offer a nerd like myself, I want to be positive about and to enjoy the possibility that a new franchise could bring to the fans of the comics. Which I also am.
Keeping all that in mind, here are five things I would love to see as part of the new series: from more characters to magical locations, the comics provide a deep and rich philosophical experience worth exploring both on the page and on the big screen. Here’s my list.
1. More Hellboy
Let me just start by saying none of the thoughts on this wishlist are intended to be a slight towards the original films. I love them both but if we’re starting over, I have some requests. First of which is more Hellboy. Ron Perlman killed it, but the version of the horned hero he portrayed is a pretty far cry from what we get in the books. Hellboy isn’t an overgrown adolescent with a cat fetish that sneaks out at night. He’s an introspective, thoughtful brute who is much more a detective and much less a prank-playing barbarian.
I get it, a thoughtful, somber beast whose struggle with self and self-doubt inform not only his choices but the core fabric of his character might not be that sexy to the average movie goer. He’s a monster in a monster filled world where people do monstrous things and his greatest goal is peace. I think there are ways you can spice that up while still being true to the character on the page, though.
I loved what Perlman gave us – whether it was his take or del Toro’s – but if you read the books, that’s not Hellboy. It’s a caffeinated reproduction based on what filmmakers thought the public would want to see. But what about the version that same public wants to read about? That’s the Hellboy I want.
This one’s easy so I’ll keep it short. In the original films HB had an affinity for a certain candy bar, but if we get the Hellboy Mike Mignola writes, it’ll be pancakes the red skinned hell-born clamors for. You know, those fluffy discs of cake with syrup on top (H/T, Rick Sanchez).
3. More B.P.R.D.
I commend del Toro for his inclusion of B.P.R.D. in his movies, but considering just how weird and insanely complex and interesting those characters are in the comics, we didn’t get nearly enough.
There’s a sect of Hellboy fan that will tell you the B.P.R.D. comics are better than their source material, and I’m not sure I can argue with that. But the issues with their transition to the silver screen mirrored their big fisted leader’s: not a direct enough adaptation. My biggest gripe with the films – and the first one in particular – is the changes made to well established characters. That, and a forced love triangle/story created too much of a departure from the well-rounded, fully formed versions existing on the page.
The personalities living in ink and stock are so rich and interesting that changing them just for the sake of changing them should be considered heresy. Don’t pull your punches and let us see all the strange, over the top goodness Mignola wanted us to have in the first place. An added note: introducing the likes of, let’s say, Lobster Johnson and maybe Witchfinder character could set up amazing spin-offs. Shared Hellboy cinematic universe, anyone?
4. More Mythology
Two elements – very, very important elements – not quite fleshed out in the original films are that Hellboy is a detective, kind of like Batman, and that most of the mysteries he’s trying to solve are deeply steeped in some local mythology.
With the amount of work Mike Mignola put into researching and thoughtfully including ethnic and regional mythos into his stories it was such a shame for very little of that to make it into the films. The Golden Army gave us a little taste, but still nothing compared to what happened between panels. He wrote about vampires, but instead of sparkles and boy bands, they were ancient and authentic. He included giants and trolls but never once mentioned the WWE or the internet.
What Mike gave readers were stories so fantastical yet inclusive, skipping that aspect this time around would be unforgivable.
Honorable Mention: Make Hellboy the detective he is in the books. Easy, right?
5. If it ain’t Broke…
Reading through my list may lead you to the conclusion – despite me saying otherwise several times – that I’m not happy with the original films. The opposite is more than true. Not only do I love them, I think they are unheralded as one of the reasons comic films are of the quality you see today. Not only are they great and fun movies, they don’t get nearly enough credit for helping get adaptations firmly intrenched in the mainstream without having to compromising their roots.
So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are countless aspects from the originals – especially the second – that newly minted director Neil Marshall and Hellboy himself, David Harbour, would do well to heed. There was character growth, multiple subplots and a wonderful mixture of humor and the macabre that should absolutely find its way into the new series.
But the biggest thing to me would be keeping as much of the special effects in camera as possible. I know there will be an ungodly dose of CG, but one of the many things del Toro got very right was keeping make-up and costuming at the forefront of the film’s aesthetic. Those “real effects” choices were only bolstered by his use of actual sets when possible as well. If it looks like Hellboy, and it smells like Hellboy…
And that’s my list. We live in a world where comic book films become more and more like their 2D counterparts every day. And with studios now also catering to the fan and not just the bumbling masses, there’s no excuse for a Hellboy reboot to do anything other than reflect the amazing stories and characters contained in the books.
Now it’s your turn! Click on over to Facebook and tell us your wishlist for our stone-fisted friend’s latest endeavorers.