The year 2019 saw a plethora of reboots for beloved movies, some more successful than others, but the one appears to have gotten the least love is Hellboy. The third movie inspired by Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comic, starring David Harbour as the titular devilish hero, was met with backlash by some who cherish the originals from director Guillermo del Toro and led by Ron Perlman and some who just thought the movie was Hell to get through.
It may not have been the hit Lionsgate wanted nor the film most fans of the 2004 original and its 2008 sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army craved, but in spite of that, Hellboy is not without its moments. Furthermore, I would go as far as saying that some of the decisions made for the 2019 movie were an improvement on the originals.
“What improvements?” you may ask. I have six ways that the 2019 Hellboy reboot proved its worth alongside the originals right here for you.
Hellboy’s Eclectic Soundtrack
Hellboy is a man (or, creature, I suppose) of many decades, having entered our world as a child in the 1940s but maintaining peak physical shape thanks to his slow aging process. So, it can be inferred that his musical taste also spans several time periods, which explains the intriguing variety found in the soundtrack to Hellboy.
From the exotic Spanish rock of Los Lobos’ “Cambia Raza” when we first see David Harbour as Hellboy in Tijuana, a wrestling sequence set to the obvious choice of Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” and the various peppering in of symphonic mastery from the likes of Mozart or Beethoven, the song choices in the 2019 Hellboy fit every moment during which they appear almost perfectly. However, probably the most memorable musical moment from the original movies is Ron Perlman’s Hellboy and Abe Sapien’s (Doug Jones) drunken rendition of Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
Giving Hellboy A Scarier Look
Whatever your initial reaction to the first peek of David Harbour in full makeup for Hellboy in 2019 was, you cannot deny that the guy looked a lot meaner. Of course, any fan of the character knows that underneath his rough, red exterior is a big heart, which makes his new visual design more interesting and, supposedly, more fitting to the tone of the story.
I cannot say that Ron Perlman does not pull off Hellboy’s look from the comics in the original movies, but, save his filed down horns and yellow eyes, his makeup job still brings out a human quality that makes his appearance pretty easy to swallow and more in tune with his inner soft side. David Harbour’s appearance is far more monstrous and scarier (you can barely even see his eyes behind the darkness under his brow), that is, arguably, more accurate to Mike Mignola’s original art and provides a more amusing juxtaposition to his charming “average Joe” quality.
Single Take Action Sequences
With so many action movies relying on quick cuts in the editing to hide special effects (or even reasons less justifiable than that), it is refreshing to see a filmmaker attempt to dismiss any letting on to the illusion and place us directly into the moment by shooting the sequence without any visual scene breaks. Key moments to 2019’s Hellboy are no exception.
It is the scene in which Hellboy takes on a trio of bloodthirsty giants that especially earns my respect. Shooting that dizzying sequence of David Harbour dodging CGI monster attacks virtually all in one take is a feat that few filmmakers have dared to endure, and not one that was attempted in Guillermo del Toro’s originals.
Going Hard To Earn Hellboy’s R Rating
I think we should at least be thankful that Guillermo del Toro’s original Hellboy movies were PG-13, allowing us to proudly introduce the otherwise dark character in a lighter story to our children without risk of shame. But, deep down, I think we all wanted to see Ron Perlman get a bit bloodier.
David Harbour’s iteration of the character not only gets bloodier, but draws plenty more of it, too, in the 2019 Hellboy reboot (heck, the main antagonist is called The Blood Queen). While its methods of earning an R rating predominantly involve the occasional F-bomb and many, many, MANY severed heads, at least you can say just that: they earned it. Also, special kudos to Hellboy’s most epic kill in the movie: forcing an entire tree trunk slowly through a giant’s head.
Casting Thomas Haden Church As Lobster Johnson
Guillermo del Toro originally planned for Lobster Johnson, a Depression-era vigilante against paranormal activity spun-off from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics, to make an appearance in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but scrapped the idea to honor the character’s time period. Even though it required a reimagining of Hellboy’s origin, the 2019 reboot squeezed him in, brought to life by the glorious casting of Thomas Haden Church.
Bearing comically oversized goggles and a large, blue lobster claw across his chest, the Oscar-nominee known best for playing bad guys in Spider-Man 3 and George of the Jungle is clearly having fun chewing the scenery as Hellboy’s idol, who is seen botching the Nazis’ attempt to open a portal to Hell before the young demon emerges from the rubble and later in a mid-credits sequence where his ghost pays a fangirling David Harbour a visit. Thomas Haden Church is just what Hellboy needed to earn its comedic tone.
Casting David Harbour As Hellboy
It is a frightening concept to take on a role once defined by a different actor’s beloved betrayal, but, fortunately, fans of Guillermo del Toro’s original Hellboy movies were surprisingly warm to the idea of a Stranger Things’ Jim Hopper filling in for Ron Perlman, who was even kind enough to give his successor his personal blessing. I would say that the 2019 reboot’s finished product is proof that David Harbour met expectations.
In the same spirit of one’s appreciation for Ben Affleck’s take on Batman despite their preference for Michael Keaton, while Ron Perlman will always be my Hellboy, there is still much to be admired about what David Harbour does with the character. With his delivery of decidedly corny, recycled one-liners and a clear understanding of the demon anti-hero’s struggle to fit in a human-dominated world, it is clear that he was passionate about nailing the character, making an otherwise critical and commercial misfire a worthy moment in Hellboy’s legacy.
How do you feel about 2019’s Hellboy reboot? Did David Harbour’s performance in the strange, graphic spectacle dazzle you, or does the Ron Perlman purist in you wish to see it burn? Let us know!