Not all reboots are made equal, and just because something gets a reboot doesn’t mean that either version is lesser. This is the case for the 2019 reboot of Hellboy, based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name. Everyone I’ve spoken to loves the original film adaption of it from 2004, by famed genre director Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman, and is in my opinion one of the only comic book movies of that decade to be faithful to its source material, both in spirit and in text, and still be good. Thusly, when this reboot was announced, after del Toro left the project and Perlman refused to reprise the role without him as director, the fandom had its doubts about the quality of the film. I am not here to litigate if the film stands up to the original adaption, as I am not at all interested in holding precious works now fifteen years old, but rather to talk about the new film on its own, though some references to the original will have to be made. In that light I will say this, I really enjoyed Hellboy for the action/horror pulp comic book movie that it is, and it does faithfully link back to the comics, though which stories of the canon it uses are more scattershot than the original, but I don’t think that is a bad thing.
This adaption of Hellboy resets the character under the tutelage of Stranger Things alum David Harbour, whose Hellboy is less bombastic than Perlman’s, more jaded and introspective. Harbour’s doesn’t want to be a widely known hero, though he is, he just wants to be, to exist on his own terms. In this, the snide jokes from this version feel darker, cut with more self-loathing, and in some ways, I think I like that about him. He struggles with who he is and who others believe him to be. He is a demon, and for all the good he does, that does not change what he is, but nor does what he is determine who he is, which is, of course, the crux of the Hellboy story. He was born and sent here to destroy the world and bring about the end of days, that is what he is, but he is also a fighter against all that goes bump in the night and a protector of mankind, that is who he is.
Instead of Rasputin as the great villain of this tale, though he does make an appearance in a cutaway scene reminding us of Hellboy’s origins as the result of a Nazi occult ritual, we have Nimue the Blood Queen, an immortal witch who originally warred with King Arthur himself, but was defeated only to return in modernity, who is played by the amazing Milla Jovovich. While the performance is amazing, she fills the same sort of role as him, the being from the shadows that tempt Hellboy’s darker nature into fulfilling his destiny, such as it is.
As an R-rated movie, this version has a foul tongue and a penchant for gore that the previous iterations couldn’t contend with at PG-13, but while other critics take that to be a mark against the film, I believe that it works for the genre. Hellboy, both in comics and on the big screen, it has a layer of grit that this version has for me, and while the story itself is weak, I don’t exactly mind it.
I like how this film takes place after Hellboy has been doing things in the world before the events of this movie that has repercussions on it. I love the new takes on the Professor and Hellboy, as well as the new to the film’s characters, especially Alice Monaghan played by Sasha Lane. She was my favorite, and I’m looking into other things she’s been in.
Honestly, the two films are different enough for me to not want or need to compare the two, and regardless of that, both now exist. I sincerely suggest that fans of the comics and films take the time to check out this reboot with an open mind because I do believe it is a fun movie and a great time at the movies.
Hellboy is now open wide in cinemas everywhere.
David Castro is a Puerto Rican writer from New York City. He has worked on the upcoming Undead supplement for Chill Third Edition and is working on launching a Patreon. You can find him on Twitter (@theinkedknight), on Tumblr (thedevilsyouknew), on Facebook (facebook.com/inkstainedstudios), and at davidrcastro.com.