The Hellboy reboot could be the next big R-rated comic-book movie, even without Ed Skrein
After earlier PG-13 adaptations which were only moderately successful at the box office, fans await a new director’s darker take on the horned lead character from Dark Horse Comics, to be played by David Harbour
No Guillermo del Toro. No Ron Perlman. No problem?
Hellboy creator Mike Mignola (and the official social media accounts of the upcoming Hellboy reboot) awoke a long-dormant movie fan base after revealing the first official image of David Harbour (Stranger Things) as the horned, stone-handed, fan-favourite Dark Horse Comics character.
Lionsgate and Millennium film will be producing an R-rated Hellboy with Neil Marshall directing, arriving in 2018. Del Toro and Perlman, despite producing two moderately successful Hellboy films, were perhaps limited in how much they could take from Hellboy’s dark comic books.
You could almost say they were working with a Heckboy. Their two movies, 2004’s Hellboy (US$59.6 million/HK$465.5 million domestic, US$99 million worldwide) and 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army (US$75.9 million domestic, US$160 million worldwide), were born in an era in which the comic-book-movie rating norm was PG-13. One can only wonder what del Toro, a director who specialises in dark visuals, could have done with an R-rated Hellboy movie.
Not helping matters back then was both Hellboy movies sharing a release year with R-rated Punisher movies (not made by Marvel Studios) that bombed. 2004’s The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane, and 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, starring Ray Stevenson, weren’t able to turn into multi-movie franchises and likely had many studio execs thinking PG-13 was the way to go when adapting a comic-book property.
Deadpool , of course, changed everything.
The raunchy and comedic R-rated adaptation of one of the most popular Marvel Comics characters showed that when done right (in the case of Deadpool, sticking to the source material and not trying to reinvent the character) Hollywood studios could rethink expansive franchises by going dark with their comic-book movies.
That means Hellboy won’t have to hold back his heavy-handed punches and Marshall and Harbour will be able to dive into the darkest corners of Mignola’s Hellboy universe. An R-rated approach also promises to give fans something they haven’t seen before with the character, eliminating the feeling of a money-grabbing, just-because PG-13 reboot.
The new Hellboy movie already has some social media buzz behind it. Although not the good kind. Korean American actor Daniel Dae Kim has replaced Ed Skrein after Skrein dropped out of the film to avoid whitewashing a character (Major Ben Daimio) who is Japanese American in the pages of Hellboy comics.
With that controversy behind them, the Hellboy movie franchise can look toward becoming the next R-rated comic book movie franchise hit. While Hellboy can be humorous at times, the Deadpool franchise has the market on goofball anti-heroics cornered. If Hellboy is going to stand out on its own as an R-rated comic-book movie, the best thing it can do is embrace the darkness.
With a character named Hellboy that deals in the supernatural, and a wealth of otherworldly comic-book source material, that shouldn’t be a problem.