Hellboy (2019 film)

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Hellboy
Hellboy (2019) theatrical poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNeil Marshall
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on
Starring
Music byBenjamin Wallfisch
CinematographyLorenzo Senatore
Edited byMartin Bernfeld
Production
companies
Distributed byLionsgate[2]
Release date
  • April 9, 2019 (2019-04-09) (New York City)
  • April 12, 2019 (2019-04-12) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$50 million[4]
Box office$46.1 million[5][6]

Hellboy (released as Hellboy: Call of Darkness in some markets)[7][8] is a 2019 American superhero film based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name. Directed by Neil Marshall, the film stars David Harbour in the title role, alongside Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, and Thomas Haden Church. It is a reboot of the Hellboy film series, and the third live-action film in the franchise. The film draws inspiration from the comic books Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, The Storm and the Fury, and Hellboy in Mexico.

The project began as a sequel to Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), with Andrew Cosby and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola writing the script. Guillermo del Toro was not offered the full writer-director capacity he had performed in the first two films, and Ron Perlman, who portrayed Hellboy in the previous films, refused to return without del Toro's involvement. The project was turned into an R-rated reboot after Marshall was hired as the director and Harbour cast as Hellboy. Principal photography began in September 2017 in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria and ended in December 2017.

Hellboy was released on April 12, 2019, to negative reviews and was a box-office bomb, grossing $46.1 million worldwide against a $50 million budget. Critics compared it unfavorably to Del Toro’s films and criticized the story, inconsistent tone, and excessive gore, but some praised the make-up effects and Harbour and Jovovich's performances.[9][10][11]

Plot[edit]

In the Dark Ages, the evil Blood Queen Nimue unleashes a plague on England until King Arthur stops her with the aid of Ganeida, a member of her coven. Arthur uses Excalibur to dismember Nimue, and hides her remains across England.

In present day Tijuana, Mexico, paranormal investigator Hellboy reluctantly kills missing B.P.R.D. agent Esteban Ruiz, whose mission got him turned into a vampire. After hearing Ruiz's dying words that the end is coming, Hellboy is brought back to the B.P.R.D. in Colorado. He is assigned by B.P.R.D. leader Trevor Bruttenholm, his adoptive human father, to assist the Osiris Club in their hunt for three giants. Hellboy is informed by the club's seer Lady Hatton that Bruttenholm was meant to kill him when he first came into the world as the result of the Nazis' Project Ragnarok. Meanwhile, the hog-like fairy Gruagach is advised by the witch Baba Yaga to retrieve the pieces of Nimue, so she may grant his wish for revenge against Hellboy.

During the hunt, Hellboy is betrayed and nearly killed by the hunters before they are ambushed by the giants. Barely conscious, Hellboy manages to defeat the giants before being rescued by a young woman. Hellboy awakens in the woman's flat and recognizes her as Alice Monaghan, a medium he once rescued from fairies as a baby. Sending a SWAT team to retrieve Hellboy, Bruttenholm relays that Nimue's remains have been taken and the last piece is at the Osiris Club. They are introduced to M11 agent Ben Daimio, and Hellboy and Alice join the team headed to the club. Finding the club slaughtered, Alice channels Hatton's spirit, who reveals that Nimue seeks Hellboy to cause the apocalypse. Nimue's arm is taken by Gruagach, and Nimue distracts Hellboy by appealing to his frustrations, allowing Gruagach to escape. Hellboy reveals that Gruagach is a changeling who took baby Alice's place before Hellboy branded him with iron and forced him to return Alice. Gruagach hates Hellboy for taking his chance to be human.

Daimio takes them to M11 headquarters before secretly acquiring a special bullet to kill Hellboy. After an argument with Bruttenholm about his adoption, Hellboy leaves before being magically transported to Baba Yaga's house. Having shot out Baba Yaga's right eye, Hellboy is talked into giving up one of his eyes for the location where Nimue plans to restore herself. Hellboy reneges on the deal and in anger, she curses him to lose a loved one. On the way to Nimue's location at Pendleton, Daimio reveals to Alice that he was the sole survivor of a were-jaguar attack.

The group arrives after Nimue's full resurrection, and kills her coven with the exception of Ganeida. Nimue poisons Alice and flees with Gruagach; Ganeida directs Hellboy to the resting place of the wizard Merlin to save Alice. Hellboy and Daimio excavate Merlin's still-living body, and Merlin cures Alice before putting her and Daimio to sleep. Merlin tells Hellboy that he is a descendant of King Arthur through his mother, who was spirited to Hell by his father. When offered Excalibur, Hellboy refuses it after a vision of himself causing the apocalypse. Merlin, having exhausted his magic, disintegrates.

The trio return to London to find the M11 staff dead and Bruttenholm missing. They follow Nimue to St Paul's Cathedral, and Hellboy fights an empowered Gruagach aided by Daimio in were-jaguar form. Nimue kills Gruagach, and knocks Hellboy into Arthur's hidden tomb that holds Excalibur. Hellboy initially refuses to pull the sword, but reneges when Nimue kills Bruttenholm. The sword's removal opens a portal to Hell from which demons emerge and attack London. Alice channels Bruttenholm's spirit to dissuade Hellboy and he decapitates Nimue, throwing her head into the closing portal after the demons are sent back to hell. Hellboy and Bruttenholm exchange farewells, and Daimio discards the special bullet.

Six months later, the trio raid a cult club where they find the water tank of Abe Sapien. In a mid-credits scene, Hellboy is consoled at Bruttenholm's grave by the ghost of his hero Lobster Johnson. In a post-credits scene, Baba Yaga enlists an unseen force to seek out Hellboy with the promise of allowing him to finally die.

Cast[edit]

  • David Harbour as Hellboy / Anung Un Rama:
    An immensely powerful Cambion who works for the government organization Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). Harbour was suggested for the role by Mignola after having seen Stranger Things.[12] Harbour had stated that the film will be a "character piece" and feature mature themes and "complicated subjects" that will warrant the film's R-rating, stating, "It really is this study of this man going through this horrible conundrum and we really get to go in deep with him".[13] Mignola had stated that Harbour had been researching the character, stating, "He's texting me Hellboy questions about his history, about what the character would think about this or about that".[14] Mignola described Harbour's Hellboy as being more dramatic, gritty, and emotionally explosive than Perlman's.[15] Harbour refrained from imitating Perlman's Hellboy by depicting his own version similar to a "teenager", describing him as "younger" and "rougher", stating, "He's really struggling with the idea of whether or not he's a good person".[16]
  • Milla Jovovich as Vivian Nimue, the Blood Queen:
    A powerful and ancient medieval British sorceress who seeks to destroy mankind. Harbour had stated that Hellboy has a "very special relationship" with Nimue and that the film expands her role from the comics.[17] Jovovich described the character as being "literally the queen of the underworld", serving as the mother of the monsters and described Nimue's plan as "beautiful" and "relevant" to today's political climate in trying to bring people together.[18]
  • Ian McShane as Trevor Bruttenholm:
    Hellboy's adoptive father and the founder of the B.P.R.D. Harbour confirmed that their version of Bruttenholm is a much harder character who doesn't sympathize with Hellboy questioning his place in the world.[17]
  • Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan:
    A young woman of Irish descent, who retained some magical abilities after she was kidnapped by fairies as a baby. Harbour stated that the character "gets to play with some really interesting ideas of, sort of, being a witch and having visions."[17]
  • Daniel Dae Kim as Ben Daimio:
    A rugged Japanese-American military member of the B.P.R.D. who, due to a supernatural encounter, can turn into a jaguar when angered or in pain. Ed Skrein was originally cast in the role but upon discovering that Daimio was portrayed in the comics as Japanese-American, he withdrew to allow an Asian actor to be cast instead. A month later, Kim was cast in the role.
  • Thomas Haden Church as Lobster Johnson: A vigilante with a violent reputation as he killed mobsters and Nazis while burning his trademark lobster claw symbol into their foreheads with the palm of his gloved hand.
  • Stephen Graham and Douglas Tait as Gruagach:
    A hog-like fairy who restored Nimue to exact revenge on Hellboy. Graham provides the voice for Gruagach while Tait provides the physical performance.
  • Sophie Okonedo as Lady Hatton: A resident seer at the Osiris Club, an ancient English club dedicated to uncovering supernatural mysteries.
  • Penelope Mitchell as Ganeida: An elder witch who has decided that Nimue's wrath has gone on for too long and must be stopped.
  • Alistair Petrie as Lord Adam Glaren: A high-ranking member of the Osiris Club.
  • Emma Tate and Troy James as Baba Yaga:
    A one-eyed Russian witch who lives in a chicken-leg house, having lost her right eye to Hellboy in the past. Tate provides the voice for the Baba Yaga, while James provides the on-screen performance.
  • Mark Stanley as King Arthur: The ruler of Camelot who is based on the figure of Arthurian legend.
  • Brian Gleeson as Merlin: An ancient and powerful sorcerer based on the figure of Arthurian legend.
  • Laila Morse as a BPRD employee

Additionally, Mario de la Rosa plays Esteban Ruiz/Camazotz. Markos Rounthwaite and Vanessa Eicholz also appear as Grigori Rasputin and Ilsa Haupstein, respectively. Ilko Iliev plays Karl Ruprect Kroenen, Joel Harlow plays Klaus Werner Von Krupt, Dimiter Banenkin portrays Leopold Kurtz, and Kristina Klebe portrays Leni Riefenstahl.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

In 2014, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola began work with writer Andrew Cosby on the story for a new film. The project was initially intended as a sequel to Guillermo del Toro's films Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which starred Ron Perlman as the title character. Del Toro was offered a producer credit, but declined, wishing instead to direct his own script for Hellboy III, and Perlman refused to return without del Toro's involvement. When Neil Marshall joined, it was decided that the new film would instead be a reboot.[19]

In May 2017, Mignola announced on his personal Facebook page that the reboot, then titled Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, would be directed by Neil Marshall and star David Harbour as the eponymous character. Mignola also stated that the film would have an R rating.[20] At the time, it was targeted for a 2018 release.[21] Andrew Cosby had stated that the film will be a "darker, more gruesome version of Hellboy."[22] Harbour further elaborated on the film's R-rating, stating, "This movie is gorey, I mean it's like a horror movie. There's a lot of blood in it. It's brutal."[17]

Mignola had stated that he would have minimal involvement with the reboot, acting more as a "co-executive producer" and without involvement in the pre-production or design, stating, "When the decision was made to do another movie, I got involved, basically saying, 'If you're going to do that story, don't do this, or that, change this, and that.' I helped to steer it. Christopher Golden and I did write a couple of drafts of the screenplay and got it on track, and then the decision was made to do a reboot."[23] In August 2017, the film dropped the subtitle Rise of the Blood Queen and was re-titled simply as Hellboy.[24]

Writing[edit]

When the project was announced, it was revealed that Mignola had written early drafts with Andrew Cosby and Christopher Golden and Mignola would be developing a new draft with Aron Eli Coleite.[20] On developing the tone for the film, Cosby stated, "Neil said from the very beginning that he wanted to walk a razor's edge between horror and comic book movie, which was music to my ears, because that's what I was shooting for in the script, and precisely what Mignola does so well with the comics."[22]

Mignola confirmed that the film will draw inspiration from Darkness Calls, The Wild Hunt, and The Storm and the Fury,[25][26] but would also pull "bits and pieces from other stories", such as Hellboy in Mexico.[27] Mignola did not want to do another origin story, feeling that Del Toro had already succeeded with that story. Mignola felt the three-book arc gave the filmmakers an "entryway" back into the world of Hellboy and allowed them to expand beyond the comic.[15] A poster with final credits revealed Cosby retained sole screenwriter credit.[28]

Creature design[edit]

Makeup designer Joel Harlow wanted to make the monsters and world of Hellboy as "believable within the context of the world they inhabit". The design team attempted not to reference the designs of the Del Toro films and took inspiration from the comics. Harlow attempted to stay faithful to the source material and consulted with Mignola on any new designs to make sure they matched the tone of the comics. Harlow added Harbour's facial features into the initial Hellboy maquette sculpt in order to capture Harbour's likeness into the character. Harlow felt Harbour's Hellboy gave an "imposing presence" after the makeup and body suit were applied.[29]

For the horned version of Hellboy, Harlow chose to make that version an "amped up" version of the regular Hellboy, stating, "We created a look that was a more amped up version of the facial features that make him Hellboy. We gave him a larger jaw, a heavier brow, a more vibrant yellow eye look, larger teeth and, of course, extremely large horns." Harlow wanted "real-world representations" of the horned version by adding scars, feeling they made Hellboy feel gritty and appropriate for an R-rated version of Hellboy. The decision for a lack of a top-knot was due to this version of Hellboy being portrayed younger than the comic iteration. For the creatures of Hell, Harlow wanted them to look different than the film's other creatures, stating, "Their look is entirely nonhuman and very frightening. It's a glimpse into a world of beings that do not follow the anatomical laws of anything terrestrial."[29]

Pre-production[edit]

David Harbour was the first actor to be cast for the film in the role of Hellboy.[20] In August 2017, Ian McShane was cast as Trevor Bruttenholm.[30] On August 8, 2017, Milla Jovovich was cast as the main antagonist, the Blood Queen.[31] On August 15, 2017, Sasha Lane was cast as Alice Monaghan.[32]

On August 21, Ed Skrein was cast as Ben Daimio;[33] however, Skrein voluntarily dropped out of the film on August 28 following accusations of "whitewashing" the role he was set to play, stating: "It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honor and respect that. Therefore, I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately."[34] On August 30, 2017, Penelope Mitchell joined the cast as Ganeida.[35]

In September 2017, Daniel Dae Kim was cast to replace Skrein in the role of Daimio.[36] Kim has since praised Skrein for dropping the role, stating, "I applaud the producers and, in particular, Ed Skrein for championing the notion that Asian characters should be played by Asian or Asian American actors."[37] The two later met and became acquainted after Skrein's exit, with Kim saying, "Thanks for the opportunity to get to know each other in person. Grateful to now call you 'friend'."[38]

In November 2018, it was revealed that Thomas Haden Church had a role in the film as Lobster Johnson.[39] That same month, it was also revealed that Stephen Graham and Douglas Tait would portray Gruagach, with Graham providing the voice and Tait providing the in-camera performance.[40] Doug Jones (who played Abe Sapien in the del Toro films) was offered a cameo but was unable to participate due to commitments to Star Trek: Discovery.[41]

Filming[edit]

Hellboy began principal production in September 2017 and filmed in the United Kingdom and Bulgaria.[33] Filming wrapped on December 27, 2017.[42] During the film's opening weekend, TheWrap published a report that revealed tensions during the film's production. The report revealed producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin had chosen to fire the original cinematographer and director Marshall's collaborator, Sam McCurdy. Insiders suggested McCurdy's termination was meant to be a "message" to Marshall that he was not in charge, however, Levin's attorney, Martin Singer, denied the allegations and revealed that McCurdy's termination was a "group decision". Singer accused Marshall of "encouraging" the story.[4]

Three insiders revealed that Levin frequently interrupted Marshall before the cast and crew during rehearsals and attempted to give the actors different directions from Marshall's. Singer denied the claim, stating that Levin talked to Marshall after rehearsals. Two insiders revealed that Harbour walked off set, refusing to film more takes for Marshall. Singer countered that Levin had no recollection of the incident. Two insiders revealed that the script was rewritten on-set and that Harbour and McShane rewrote their lines. Singer disputed that this was a common practice amongst film productions.[4]

One insider revealed that Marshall and Levin had disputes over the design of a tree. Marshall wanted a realistic, asymmetrical design while Levin opted for a symmetrical design and overruled Marshall's decision. However, Marshall changed the design to asymmetrical during post-production. Singer denied the claim, stating that all the designs in the film went through an "exhaustive design and evolution process". All parties involved refused to comment on the report.[4]

Post-production[edit]

The visual effects were provided by Mr. X, Rhythm & Hues, Rise FX and Worldwide FX, supervised by Chris MacLean, James Cooper, John Haley, Markus Degen, Veselina Georgieva, Matt Kasmir and Steve Begg, with the help of Goodbye Kansas Studios, Nu Boyana FX, Onirikal Studio and Nzivage.[43] Marshall did not retain final cut over the film.[4]

Music[edit]

The soundtrack is composed by Benjamin Wallfisch.[44] The first trailer featured a cover version of “Mony Mony” by Billy Idol[45] while the second trailer featured a cover version of “Smoke on the Water” by 2WEI.[46] The soundtrack is now released at Sony Masterworks, which includes Benjamin Wallfisch's Score and a Song in Spanish version of "Rock You Like A Hurricane" performed by Unprotected Innocence (Micki Milosevic & Steph Honde)

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

Daniel Dae Kim, David Harbour, and Mike Mignola during an interview at New York Comic Con in October 2018

In September 2017, the first image of Harbour as Hellboy was released.[47] In September 2018, it was announced that a panel for the film would be held at the New York Comic Con on October 6, 2018.[48] In October 2018, the cast and director attended a panel at the New York Comic Con where a second poster revealing the film's principal characters was released and a 2-minute reel of footage was revealed exclusively to those in attendance, which received praise from attendees.[49][50] The footage was leaked online a week later.[51]

On December 17, 2018, IGN released an exclusive teaser poster, confirming that the film will be released in IMAX and the first trailer would be released on December 20.[52] That same day, Harbour released a motion poster on his Instagram.[53] On December 19, 2018, the first official trailer was released a day early.[54] The first trailer drew mixed reactions from fans with some excited for the film and others comparing it to Suicide Squad.[55][56]

On February 27, 2019, the MPAA officially gave the film an R-rating for "strong bloody violence and gore throughout, and language".[57] On February 28, 2019, a new poster and announcement of a red band trailer were revealed.[28] On March 1, 2019, the red band trailer was released online.[58] The second trailer had a more positive response from fans, with many calling it a huge improvement from the first trailer.[59]

Theatrical[edit]

Hellboy was released in the United States on April 12, 2019, in IMAX.[60] The film was previously scheduled to be released on January 11, 2019.[61] The film had its premiere in New York City on April 9, 2019.[12] The film was released in France on May 8, 2019, in Spain on May 17, 2019; in Brazil on May 26, 2019 and will be released in Hong Kong on June 20, 2019 and in Japan in Autumn 2019.[62][63] In November 2018, Lionsgate held test screenings in Los Angeles, which generated negative reactions.[64]

Home media[edit]

Hellboy is scheduled to be released on Digital on July 9, 2019 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD on July 23, 2019.[65] The home media release will be accompanied by retail exclusives from Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. Best Buy will release an exclusive 4K steelbook featuring artwork by Mike Mignola. Target will release a Blu-ray double-sided steelbook featuring two of the film's theatrical posters. Walmart will include a digital copy of Hellboy: The Wild Hunt for in-store purchases of the Blu-ray or DVD.[66]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

As of May 27, 2019, Hellboy has grossed $21.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $24.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $46.1 million, against a production budget of $50 million.[5][6] In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Little, Missing Link and After, and was initially projected to gross $17–21 million from 3,303 theaters in its opening weekend.[67][68] However after making just $4.9 million on its first day (including $1.38 million from Thursday night previews), estimates were lowered to $12 million. It ended up debuting to $12 million, finishing third behind holdover Shazam! and Little.[69] The sub-par opening was blamed on the poor critical reception, as well as a lack of interest in the franchise from audiences.[70] In its second weekend the film dropped 68%, earning $3.9 million and finishing 10th.[71][72]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 17% based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 3.62/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bereft of the imaginative flair that made earlier Hellboys so enjoyable, this soulless reboot suggests Dante may have left a tenth circle out of his Inferno."[73] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 31 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[74] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale, the lowest score of the franchise, while those at PostTrak gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars and a "definite recommend" of 44%.[70]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, "It's lunging to be a badass hard-R epic, but it's basically a pile of origin-story gobbledygook, frenetic and undercooked, full of limb-hacking, eye-gouging monster battles as well as an atmosphere of apocalyptic grunge that signifies next to nothing."[75] The Hollywood Reporter's John Defore said that "Neil Marshall's Hellboy isn't lousy because nobody wants it, nor only because it fails to live up to both its big-screen and printed predecessors. It's just lousy. Bloated, vastly less funny than it aims to be and misguided in key design choices even when it scores with less important decisions, the film does make bold choices that might have paid off under other circumstances. But these aren't those circumstances."[76] Eric Kohn of IndieWire described the film "as an overzealous attempt to revisit the content of del Toro films without matching their sophistication."[77]

Johnny Oleksinski of The New York Post called the film a "grotesque misfire", writing, "The race for worst movie of the year is heating up. You could even say it's hotter than hell, now that Hellboy has taken the lead."[78] For Time Out, Phil de Semlyen wrote, "We get a conventional, if blood-soaked, splurge of folklore, origin story, comic-book fan service and monster movie, all set to a bustling blues-rock soundtrack. Knitting it all very loosely together is a barrage of exposition involving Milla Jovovich's evil Arthurian blood queen Nimue, a.k.a. the Lady in the Lake, and the threat of another cinematic apocalypse. It feels like you've seen it all before, and if you caught Joe Cornish’s The Kid Who Would Be King, you have."[79]

Conversely, William Bibbiani of TheWrap gave the film a positive review, calling it "a horrifyingly good time", stating "Neil Marshall's Hellboy is a wellspring of creativity, a major superhero movie made for hardcore R-rated horror fans, overflowing with humor and action and scares."[80]

On the film's negative reception, Harbour responded, "We did our best, but there's so many voices that go into these things and they're not always going to work out. I did what I could do and I feel proud of what I did, but ultimately I'm not in control of a lot of those things."[81] Harbour also felt the film was unfairly compared to Marvel films, stating:

"So everybody goes chocolate is delicious and these guys make the best chocolate. So as you judge the movies, it's like, 'Well it's not as chocolatey as this, this does not taste like chocolate at all. And I sort of want a world where there's more flavours than just comparisons to chocolate. So in that way when Hellboy is viewed on the chocolate spectrum, it does very poorly."[81]

References[edit]

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