In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Hellboy in town — and his name is David Harbour.
For those of us who fell in love with Ron Perlman as Hellboy, finding out there was going to be a new film with a new actor in the role was kind of like getting sucker punched. We’d been hoping for years that Perlman and del Toro would team up again and finally deliver us a third movie in the Hellboy franchise.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead, they were starting over, starting fresh. And instead of Ron Perlman donning Big Red’s fist once again, David Harbour was tasked with picking up that mantle.
You may recognize Harbour from that little show on Netflix called Stranger Things, where he portrays a lovable grump named Hopper who has to deal with some pretty weird monsters that show up in his small town. Hellboy may be a giant red demon from another dimension, but he’s still a lovable grump who has to deal with some pretty weird monsters.
Suffice it to say Harbour has some experience in that field.
And while the internet does love Harbour (how could you not?), there was still some hesitance when it came to imagining him taking over a role so iconic to Perlman.
After attending the New York Comic Con panel for Hellboy, I challenge even the most skeptical fans to not be enamored by Harbour’s enthusiasm for this project.
First, let’s set the stage. Hellboy (2019) is not going to be a recreation of Hellboy (2004). For many fans, this is the beginning and end of their interest in the reboot, but for those who are looking to be convinced that the new film could live up to expectations set by the original franchise, I implore you to keep reading.
The first two Hellboy movies are some of my favorite films of all time. I love Perlman’s portrayal and del Toro’s directorial vision. I think they’re fun, interesting, comedic, action-packed, and full of heart. I didn’t want to see a remake without either one of them, but now that I’ve gotten more of a look at what we’re getting into, I’m choosing to remain cautiously optimistic.
And most of that stems from Harbour’s dedication to this role. During the panel, he did mention that he was initially worried about backlash when he took on the project, but he’s since decided that he hopes the audience will experience watching this movie without needing to compare it to the other film.
After all, these two films will be different. This isn’t going to be a del Toro movie; it’s going to be a Neil Marshall movie. That means it’s going to be darker, more grounded, and more of a horror film. It’s also going to be rated R. Harbour even said that his Hellboy is going to better reflect creator Mike Mignola’s comics.
And this is another positive aspect of the new film. Del Toro’s movies were sort of their own entity — inspired by rather than an adaptation of the comics. With the first two films, the team couldn’t go back to the comics for material because Perlman’s Hellboy had established a world separate from them.
Hellboy (2019), however, will be much closer to the comics, and they’ll be able to go back to Mignola’s creation and find new storylines for additional films, if they’re so lucky as to get a sequel.
Harbour won’t try to imitate Perlman’s Hellboy. He said he’s doing his own thing in the film, and that this version will feel down and dirty, even younger than Perlman’s. There’s going to be more inner turmoil, as he feels even more lost in his place in the universe.
But not everything is different. The team was careful to keep as much of the effects as practical as possible. In fact, Harbour points out that nothing on the poster, save for the flames, is CGI. In a world where computer generated effects tend to take the place of more practical effects, this feels like an anomaly, and something that fans of the original films will appreciate.
In fact, Harbour took a moment to tell us a story that further proves his dedication to and his enthusiasm for the project. He trained for three months prior to the film in order to get into shape for the role. He was less worried about bulking up and more concerned with feeling strong enough to portray a demon from another dimension.
He even went so far as to build himself his own Hellboy costume out of a wet suit, a helmet with horns glued to the top, and a hockey mitt and guards to imitate Hellboy’s Fist of Doom. He did all of this so he could get used to the bulk of the prosthetics he would eventually have to wear once he started filming.
The truth of the matter is that this is not the Hellboy films we all love. But it’s also not not the Hellboy we all love. He still has the same fuck you attitude, and the footage shown during the panel proves this movie is going to be funny, violent, and action-packed. The tone is fun and sardonic, but it’ll also feature some pretty scary looking creatures our hero will have to defeat.
Ian McShane will be playing a very different Bruttenholm than we’re used to — more punishing and hard — but that complicated father-son relationship will still be there, regardless.
And don’t discount the idea that we may see other familiar faces, as one fan asked whether we’d get any cameos from other BPRD agents. Harbour was practically squirming in his seat while he relayed that Lionsgate specifically told him not to say anything. “I don’t know if you’ll see anyone else from the BPRD,” he deadpans, which is a surefire sign that we will.
And it’s not just Harbour’s enthusiasm that I hope will get other people excited for this new film. The fact that Ed Skrein stepped down from his role as Major Ben Daimio, who is Asian in the comics, truly set a precedent for actors in whitewashed roles. Plus, it allowed the affable Daniel Dae Kim to fill the role in his stead.
Sasha Lane will be portraying Alice Monaghan, and she was excited to share the fact that she did a lot of her own stunts, which included plenty of flipping, for the movie. And even though Milla Jovovich wasn’t at the panel, she took the time to send in a video talking about her role as the Blood Queen Nimue and how much fun she had trying to kill everyone.
Even Mignola was excited about this movie and shared hopes that some of his favorite storylines might make it to the big screen sooner or later.
At the end of the day, I understand the hesitance many fans, of both the comics and the movies, will have for the Hellboy reboot starring David Harbour. I’m still skeptical myself. This new Hellboy looks and sounds very different from Perlman’s, and it will take some getting used to. But I love this character and the story so much that I’m willing to give the film a try.
If the worst happens, then I know I can just go home to my DVDs and rewatch the original films as many times as I want.