Last night, Mike Mignola broke the news to the world: Hellboy is getting an R-rated reboot, with Neil Marshall (The Descent) directing and Stranger Things' David Harbour in the titular role. As you might expect, this news was met with no small amount of fanboy debate.
On one side, you've got your del Toro loyalists, fans who are apparently very disinterested in any version of Hellboy that does not come with the GDT guarantee. On another side, you've got your Neil Marshall champions, all of them thrilled to find out the director will be bringing his very particular sensibilities to an R-rated Hellboy movie (no matter how you feel about this, you've gotta admit that should produce spectacular results).
Having slept on it, I've decided I'm somewhere in the middle: of course I don't want to see anyone else playing in the sandbox that Ron Perlman, Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola created together...but I'm also not outwardly opposed to the idea of someone like Marshall coming in and taking the reins.
For one thing, I think it's safe to assume that Marshall's approach to Hellboy will look and feel completely different to del Toro's, and I can't help but be curious to see the results of that pairing. Will Marshall take his newfound, R-rated freedom and lean heavier on Hellboy's horrific side? Might he deliver more Lovecraftian nastiness than del Toro did? What's combat going to look like in a Neil Marshall Hellboy movie? Hell, what's David Harbour going to look like in that get-up? I admit I'm curious to know the answers to all of these questions.
And furthermore: del Toro, Perlman and Mignola met to discuss the possibility of a Hellboy 3 within the last several months, and you'll recall that that meeting ended with the announcement that no Hellboy 3 would be forthcoming. Obviously, I have no insight into the details of that conversation - where each of these men stood on the project, what went wrong to ensure that it wouldn't happen - but whatever went down sounded definitive (del Toro: "Must report that 100% (Hellboy 3) will not happen. And that is to be the final thing about it"). If the movie was never going to happen, anyway, what's there to gain by gnashing one's teeth over its continued non-existence? Of course we'd prefer it if del Toro were able to finish out his trilogy, but...that ship sailed months ago, folks.
Here's the thing I've really latched onto, though: Guillermo del Toro not doing another Hellboy only means we've got that much more Guillermo del Toro to go around. Right now, he's getting The Shape Of Water ready for its release in December. It's del Toro's latest original, following Crimson Peak, and sounds like it a mildly-bonkers, '60s-set spin on The Creature From The Black Lagoon. I love del Toro's Hellboy movies, but at the same time, I kinda prefer del Toro in Originals Mode: his vision, his characters, presumably fewer annoying studio notes holding him back. The upside to all this, in other words, is that we may end up with more Pan's Labyrinths than Hellboys. Certainly not a bad thing!
It's here that I'll loop back to something I said earlier: del Toro, Perlman and Mignola absolutely built the Hellboy cinematic sandbox together, but at the end of the day? Still Mignola's sandbox. Any further complaints about what Mignola's "doing" with the property are kinda irrelevant. Without knowing anything further about the situation, I feel like it's important to respect the creator's right to do with his characters as he sees fit (if that, indeed, is what went down here).
It's also worth noting that Neil Marshall is a great director, a dude who's got genre running all through his veins. Two days ago, if you'd asked the average fanboy what they thought of Marshall, chances are he'd have been given a rave review. In the wake of last night's news, however, I've seen folks on social media taking unfair shots at him, or painting him as some sort of Benedict Arnold for horning in on del Toro's franchise. Simply put, this is both unfair and gross. Maybe let's see what he does with the property before we demonize him over it.
Will Neil Marshall's Hellboy be any good? Will it be immediately eclipsed by the stunning work Guillermo del Toro has already put into the franchise? Will Marshall's film stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those films? We won't know until it arrives. Until then, my advice is to look on the bright side of this situation (if you give it just a little thought, there's plenty of upside here), to give Marshall and company a little bit of trust (not unearned, I might add), and to cross our fingers that Guillermo del Toro keeps us on a steady drip of those original del Toro visions.
Who knows? We might end up coming out on top.