Opinion Piece – The Strange Case of Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy

Prince Nuada in The Golden Army

Prince Nuada in The Golden Army

The Strange Case of Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy

An opinion piece by Jordan

Guillermo Del Toro as a director is an enigma; a creative and imaginative mind capable of realising tremendous visual designs, but whose body of work is not as prolific as his glowing reputation suggests.

His early work Cronos (1993) is cleverly imbued with both the older and more contemporary styling’s of vampire mythology, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is the mesmerizing war-time fable of a young girl’s troubled imagination that won him major acclaim and Pacific Rim (2013), while heavily influenced by Japanese pop-culture, was the bombastic, fresh action blockbuster the industry needed. In a manner not dissimilar to Tim Burton, some audiences also assumed him to be the director of films he’s produced, such as The Orphanage (a good film by J. A. Bayona), Julia’s Eyes (a reasonable film by Guillem Morales) and Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (a particularly bad film by Troy Nixey).

Then there is the extensive list of unrealised projects he’s been attached to, and this is where the frustration lies…

The Hellboy 2 crew

The Hellboy 2 crew

In 2008, Del Toro was reportedly attached to the live-action adaptation of the popular Halo games series, before he decided instead to direct his attention to the Lord of the Rings follow-up trilogy The Hobbit. The Hobbit didn’t quite turn out the way anyone planned (or, if it did, then it wasn’t planned entirely well), and the three entries were ultimately directed by Peter Jackson, with Del Toro using this period to instead plan for an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, which was to be produced by James Cameron. This brings us to the below…

Perhaps this will be divisive, but in my opinion his finest achievement as director is his double-dose of Hellboy; two films that instil the world of the Dark Horse Comics hero with vividly pronounced grandeur, wonderfully committed performances (Ron Perlman and Selma Blair in particular) and dry humour/banter that proves invaluable to their appeal. Though in hindsight it perhaps shouldn’t of been, the quality of his 2004 original was surprising, but when The Golden Army arrived in 2008 its masterful artistry, set design and villain as complex as the mechanism that power said Army lifted the potential trilogy into rarefied heights.

Unfortunately, and again perhaps this shouldn’t of been a surprise, a trilogy it wasn’t to be.

After At the Mountains of Madness was abandoned due to financing difficulties, the same fate apparently met the conclusion of the Hellboy saga, with a predicted lack of theatrical success keeping backers away. Making this all the more disappointing was the proposed synopsis, which saw the chocolate-loving hero meet his inevitable, dark destiny as the Apocalypse engulfs humanity. Given Del Toro’s brand recognition at this point, and the fact that previous Lovecraft movies Re-Animator and From Beyond (both directed by Stuart Gordon) have become phenomenal cult successes, news that studios would shy away from involvements with him was surprising, as was his decision, despite involvements with ultimately respectable projects Godzilla and The Wolverine, to eventually make the bizarrely confused, underwhelming Crimson Peak.

I understand that Ron Perlman isn’t getting any younger, and that a lot of time has now passed since that astonishing, heartbreaking appearance of the Last Elemental in Hellboy II, but that such exciting ideas to conclude this story were never realised is one of the great shames of cinema.

With the recent announcement that Neil Marshall is to direct a reboot to be released in 2018, subtitled Rise of the Blood Queen, the flickering flame of any continuation of Del Toro’s vision has finally been extinguished. Starring David Harbour as Hellboy and Milla Jovovich as the titular Queen (an astute casting decision), the onus is now on Marshall to satisfy the fans of  both the niche Dark Horse classic and those left longing from the above events, and given his one-two punch of Dog Soldiers (2002) and The Descent (2005) left horror fans astounded and comparing their effect to the genre’s seminal classics, I’m confident he’s capable of picking up our hopes and piecing them back together.

What do you think? Are the Hellboy movies really that good? Is a reboot a good idea? Let us know in the comments below! 

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13 responses to “Opinion Piece – The Strange Case of Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy

  1. That’s Del Toro in a nutshell to me. Always good for an amazing visual experience, but the plots attached them tend to be pretty average.

    Meanwhile Marshall’s less mainstream-friendly version of Hellboy will probably end up doing pretty poorly in sales, but be a much better movie.

    • That’s what I expect as well.. I think people have forgotten just how good Marshall can be, so I’m really excited for it, even if I would’ve been more excited for Del Toro to conclude it.
      Jordan

  2. I always like Neil Marshall’s work, and I think he will probably do a good job with this one. That said I really liked Del Toro’s vision of Hellboy too, so I am actually a bit disappointed that his vision won’t continue. Real shame, but oh well, am excited to see what Marshall will be doing with it 😊

  3. I really appreciated this piece and I couldn’t agree more. I thoroughly enjoyed Del Toro’s Hellboy films and I still get bummed out whenever I realize we won’t see the conclusion. I loved the cast, the visuals, the plot, and the overall feel to the whole thing. And I loved the second even more than the first too! What a refreshing post. I think I need to go re-watch the Hellboy movies now!

    • Hey Michael, glad you agree! I was hoping there’d be more than just me who like these so much. You’re spot on: it is just the overall feel of these films that’s so unique, and it’s helped by perlman and selma blair being so well cast. It really deserved a Del Toro conclusion but I trust Marshall to instil his flavour.
      Jordan

  4. I’m also so sad to know that, for whatever reason, we never got a third Del Toro Hellboy movie. Both were fantastic movies with awesome characters and great practical effects, something that most directors were shying away from in favor of CGI. The quality was evident and it’s sad to know that at least for now he won’t be involved in the franchise going forward.

    • I’ve always been surprised that they aren’t heralded more as fine examples of comic book movies. I guess in a way it’s good that they never got oversaturated.
      Jordan

  5. Hellboy was very cool, as almost everything Del Toro did, even Mimic wasn’t that bad at all. Honestly, I see no reason to reboot it… it was just 9 years ago. And Del Toro has his own distinctive style.

    • I see exactly where you’re coming from, and normally I would agree 100%. I feel differently in this case because the series doesn’t feel finished and Marshall has proven himself to be very talented. Plus Milla is a bonus. I hope we’re all impressed with it when it’s out.
      Jordan

      • For sure the premise is good… I hope Del Toro’s vision will be respected too. I just don’t get why they need a reboot instead of making the third part…

  6. Ooh, I hadn’t heard about a remake! And – hmm! I quite enjoyed the first Hellboy, but it was the visual style of the second that blew me away. It doesn’t feel ‘finished’, though, does it?

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