Guillermo del Toro established a good history with Hellboy – 81% and Hellboy II: The Golden Army – 86%, but budget limits, little public knowledge of the character and context about the comic book adaptations at the time did not create the best environment for their respective releases. Eventually, the tapes became cult and everyone was waiting for a third installment to close the cycle, a new story that hopefully would have better opportunities than its predecessors thanks to the already undeniable talent (and popularity) of the director. For years the fans hoped, but it all ended when a reboot was confirmed, with a different director and protagonist.
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The big problem began long before the premiere of the film starring David Harbor, as the followers of the original were not willing to welcome a new vision. It was immediately clarified that the version would allow exploring the more violent side of the character seen in the comics and that somehow it was much more veiled in Del Toro’s work. The best to take advantage of it would be director Neil Marshall, best known among horror lovers thanks to his bloody style in titles like The Descent – 85% and Dog soldiers. Failure was generally expected, almost yearned for, although those who know the director did expect a failure. Hellboy more explicit and dark.
Of course, the final result could not prove that the prejudices were wrong and although the occasional critic appreciated the attempt and considered it promising, the majority of the public (specialized or not) simply destroyed it. Harbor was quick to speak ill of the final product and was soon joined by Marshall himself. The saddest thing about this reboot is not that it was denied the opportunity to do Hellboy 3, nor that the failure of the new film meant the end of the franchise for now; the worst thing actually is that the reboot could be really good if the director had been given creative freedom.
The most positive aspect of casting Marshall as the director of Hellboy – 24% was that he knows how the horror genre is handled and how the expectations of that particular audience work. Clearly, what was interesting was seeing Hellboy from this genre and not from action, but the pressure from fans and producers meant an irremediable imbalance. During an interview for Film School Rejects, the director explained why he repudiated everything related to Hellboy:
I came out of a particularly miserable experience doing Hellboy.
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Marshall also explained how the experience inspired him to do his latest work called The Reckoning:
On that tape [Hellboy] there was no creative control at all. I knew I wanted to go back and make a really good horror movie. Going back to the horror world and doing something where I might not have all those extras and the big budget or whatever, but I keep creative control of the work that I’m doing. Something more similar to the movies I made at the beginning of my career.
It is not the first time that a director reveals that the expectations of the producers and their foolishness at the time of giving them creative freedom become elements for failure. At this point it is even a debate about the absurdity of calling a director because you are interested in his vision and then preventing him from applying it to the story.
Marshall assures that directing Hellboy ended up revealing a little more about himself and the world of major productions. The director commented that they called him because they wanted to see the horror version of Hellboy, but that in the end they did not allow him to do so. In this way, he prefers to sacrifice privileges in exchange for telling what he wants, directing tapes that he also writes. Although this new version was expected to be the great start of a new franchise, for now there are no plans to continue the story of this character created by Mike Mignola.
Do not leave without reading: David Harbor blames Guillermo del Toro fans for the failure of his Hellboy