Two months ago the Hellboy reboot was released in cinemas, and it was not a pretty sight. Critics were forced to buy tickets to see the movie because press screenings weren’t put on ahead of its release, and the resulting reviews proved exactly why. It was near universally panned and suffered a 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Audience members were just as unimpressed with the David Harbour-led comic book adaptation. At the end of its theatrical run, Hellboy had earned a dismal $40 million worldwide against a reported $50 million budget. It marked a disappointing end to what was a tumultuous journey to get the new film to the silver screen.
Ed Skrein had previously dropped out of the role of Ben Daimio after widespread social media accusations of whitewashing. The character is an Asian-American soldier, and as a white man Skrein, quite admirably, quit the film, leading to Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim taking his place. The drama continued once production started as reports came out about a power struggle on set between the director, Neil Marshall, and producers Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin.
According to The Wrap, the producers wanted to send a message to Marshall that they were in charge, and his longtime cinematographer Sam McCurdy became a target. “Two people familiar with the situation said McCurdy was fired simply for doing what Marshall asked him to do,” The Wrap reported.
Ever since the release of Hellboy II: The Golden Army in 2008, fans have been itching for director Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman to finish the story. The pair had brought the comic book hero to life in 2004 with the original Hellboy film, and the sequel ended on something of a cliffhanger, with him and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) preparing to become parents to twins and the entire team choosing to leave the service of the B.P.R.D. In the years since Hellboy II’s release, both del Toro and Perlman have spoken frequently about their hopes for the third film in order to complete the trilogy they had always envisioned. Del Toro had even revealed details for the film, telling IGN, “The third one would be essentially the end of days. It would be very grand, operatic and quite tragic."
To be fair, the filmmaker’s planned work on The Hobbit put Hellboy III on the back burner, but after he left the trilogy during the development stages, that left him free to return to Hellboy. However, he also had several other projects in the works, including Pacific Rim, and by 2011 Hellboy creator Mike Mignola said that he couldn’t see del Toro having time to make it.
Perlman certainly hopes not. Speaking with The TalkFilm Podcast while promoting his latest movie, Hitman: Redemption, the actor shared his thoughts about the reboot and the future of his Hellboy franchise. “I'd like to believe that this whole little thing that we are going through right now is a dream,” he said. “Then people will come to their senses and allow us to make the third Hellboy.”
“It's well chronicled how hard I fought for the third Hellboy, not just me, but a number of us, because I felt as though we were obligated to finish the trilogy,” the actor added. “Especially ending with the second film, where she's pregnant with twins and his destiny is about to be tested.”
“The third movie was going to be ‘rock ‘em sock ‘em,’ and it's a great shame that we didn't get to make it, but maybe you're right, maybe we will one day and everyone will come to their senses and go, 'Let's fix this.'"
There’s certainly precedent for an original actor to return to their role after someone else has played it. George Lazenby took over from Sean Connery to appear as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), but then he quit and the Scotsman returned for Diamonds Are Forever (1971). More recently, there was the attempt to reboot the Bourne franchise with Jeremy Renner.
The Bourne Legacy (2012) performed better than the Hellboy reboot, but plans for Renner to return as Cross were quickly shelved in favor of Matt Damon and original director Paul Greengrass teaming up once more for Jason Bourne (2016). That film earned mixed reviews from critics but still took home a global box office of $415.5 million compared to The Bourne Legacy’s $276.1 million, which shows the loyalty Bourne fans have to Damon.
We’ve also got the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate, which is not only a direct sequel to 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day but essentially retcons the three other Terminator movies released in the interim period. This will see Linda Hamilton returning as the OG Sarah Connor, forgetting Emilia Clarke’s iteration ever existed, and the cherry on top that is James Cameron returning for creative duties (he is not directing the film, however: That honor falls to Deadpool director Tim Miller). Whether the movie will be up to the standards of the first two films has yet to be seen, but what it and the previous examples show is a recognition of what made these franchises great and caused fans to be loyal to them.
There’s certainly a reason why social media blew up in outrage when it was announced that David Harbour would replace Ron Perlman. They felt shortchanged by a franchise they had invested in and never got to see story finished, but were instead rewarded with a subpar movie that never quite matched up to the original.
That movie doesn’t need to be the death knell in the Hellboy franchise; it could simply be a detour on the route toward del Toro and Perlman finishing their journey with this hero. Maybe the producers will need to wait a few years for the dust to settle, but it would be a wasted opportunity not to finish the story that was started 15 years ago.
The fans deserve it. Perlman and del Toro deserve it. Hellboy deserves it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.