In a mirroring of the comic book status quo, a new Hellboy film starring David Harbour as the title character is slated for release on April 12th. Nestled between Shazam! a week earlier and Avengers: Endgame later in the month, the release schedule once again pits Mike Mignola‘s creation between the big-budget titans of the Big Two comic book publishing companies. And as Mignola told Rotten Tomatoes Thursday night, “Hellboy fans are going to see Hellboy.” It’s the same attitude that kept the Hellboy comics alive and kicking against the forces of evil for 25 years.
Nonetheless, Lionsgate released a new red band trailer full of new material to entice audiences with a mix of humor, dark visions, and blood-splatter. They also invited us to see the trailer and briefly talk with Mignola and star Milla Jovovich, who could not be more excited for the film. “I thought it was amazing,” she said, revealing she has seen the finished film. “It’s so sweet. I don’t want to use the word ‘cute,’ but David is so adorable.”
“You come off very well, also,” added Mignola.
Their insights helped us take a good look at the trailer and glean some interesting things about the film and how it is differs from the comic book and the earlier Hellboy films. Here are five things we learned.
The trailer opens with another telling of Hellboy’s origin. Summoned by Rasputin and his Nazi allies near the end of World War II, Hellboy came to Earth as the intended destroyer of worlds. But when Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) and the US Army arrived on site, they found an adorable demon child. Bruttenholm decided to raise the lad himself, leading to the creation of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (or BPRD). Though covered in great detail in the first Hellboy film, it is an important detail referenced in just about every long-form Hellboy story.
And if you’re an avid watcher of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, you’ll notice certain differences in the new film’s telling of the character’s arrival on Earth. “[Director Neil Marshall] wanted to do his version [of the origin],” said Mignola. He also mentioned scenes of Hellboy’s early days will be sprinkled throughout the film, as opposed to the way del Toro opened his film with Hellboy’s arrival. He did not, however, confirm the presence of “pancakes” — a key moment in Hellboy’s development fans definitely want to see on screen.
One thing fans will notice immediately is the lack of certain key characters like Abe Sapien (played by Doug Jones in the del Toro films), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane in Hellboy II: The Golden Army). It was a conscious decision from the moment it was decided to reboot the film series instead of soldiering on with a del Toro-less Hellboy III. And once the choice was made, Mignola felt it was important not to repeat too many ideas from the earlier cycle.
Instead, the film introduces Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim), a stalwart BPRD character despite a certain affliction. As seen in the trailer, he can go from man to were-jaguar with just a hit or two from Hellboy’s Red Right Hand — an ability that will definitely come in handy when they fight that rhinoceros creature.
We also get a few glimpses of Sasha Lane‘s Alice Monaghan in the trailer. Introduced in the classic Hellboy story “The Corpse,” she has mysterious connections to the fairy realm that ultimately allow her to become its queen. But for the purposes of the film, she is Hellboy’s traveling companion and not his love interest, as Lane noted at New York Comic Con last year. And it is always possible she will fulfill her destiny by the film’s conclusion.
The Baba Yaga, glimpsed in her chicken-legged house, has a long history with Hellboy. Hopefully some of it will be touched upon as she was an early advocate of the wave of destruction Hellboy is supposed to bring upon the world.
Another character introduced in the trailer is Lady Hatton (Sophie Okonedo). In the comics, she is a member of the Osiris Club and yet another person excited for Hellboy to embrace his destiny — which includes him fulfilling the prophecy of King Arthur’s return to England. It is, of course, unclear how closely the film’s version of Lady Hatton will skew to the comics, but considering she is seen telling Hellboy about his origins, we’re going to guess she is interested in his destiny.
And while Thomas Haden Church is reportedly set to play 1940s adventurer Lobster Johnson, Mignola declined to confirm his presence, saying instead that more Hellboy films means more chances for the fan-favorite character to make his debut.
The film is primarily based on the 2008-2009 story “The Wild Hunt.” In it, an unemployed Hellboy answers an invitation to join a group of British nobleman known as “The Wild Hunt” — glimpsed in the trailer as the people riding on horseback with Hellboy — who immediately betray his trust because, as they put it, “the devil shall never sit on the throne of England.” Meanwhile, the death of the Irish Fairy king leaves the Fairy folk anxious about the resurrection of the Blood Queen Nimue. Once she rises, she will lead the folk into a war against Hellboy and the world. Also, that bit of business about Hellboy’s connection to King Arthur? It could either save the world or lead Hellboy to embrace his destiny.
Considering the prominent shot of Hellboy picking up a sword and it bursting into flames, we’re going to assume that aspect of the storyline will be part of the film. In the comic book, he is faced with the choice to take hold of Excalibur. According to Mignola, “There’s an arc that mimics the comic.” But as he explained, Marshall wanted to add aspects of other tales as well. Del Toro did the same thing — incorporating much of “The Corpse” into the first Hellboy, but deleting Alice’s role in it. This is why Bruttenholm, long dead by the time of “The Wild Hunt” in the comics, appears in the film. And as “The Wild Hunt” ends on something of a stalemate, elements from the subsequent tales, “The Storm” and “The Fury,” will no doubt help the film reach a more final conclusion. We also expect some of Daimio’s backstory, explored in the BPRD comic books, will factor in as well.
If there is one thing Jovovich is sure of about Nimue, it is that she started from a good place. She was a witch in Arthur’s day who became involved with the wizard Merlin. She eventually learned all of his secrets and imprisoned him. Fearing her power, the other witches of the day murdered her. At least, that’s how it went down in the comics. Jovovich would not confirm anything about Nimue’s past in the film except that she was betrayed, but she did offer this appraisal of her character: “She’s the only sane person in this movie.”
From the trailer, we get the sense that her grudge is with England itself — Bruttenholm says as much — which would suggest Arthur and his descendants would be prime targets. But it is also clear she adores Hellboy. Then again, who wouldn’t? He’s muscley, red, and fated to end the world.
Not that Hellboy is interested in any of her ambitions, but at least it will lead to some cool, apocalyptic scenes.
While neither Mignola nor Jovovich spoke to this point, we can’t help but notice the damage London takes throughout the trailer. A hellacious storm brews above the city skies and a creature which may or may not be Nimue herself demolishes the Tower Bridge. Hellboy comics typically avoid that level of destruction — Mignola leaves that to the BPRD spin0ff series — but it is nice to see some big stakes realized, even if Hellboy quips that they are not relatable.
Then there’s that shot late in the trailer of Hellboy riding a dragon across a hellish landscape. The river of fire sure looks like the course of the Thames to us. But as Hellboy fans know, any shot of the character with his horns and crown is probably a prophetic vision and not reality. But it is always possible Nimue will tempt him into embracing his apocalyptic destiny. Or, alternatively, the capital of Hell looks just like London.
Hellboy opens everywhere on April 12.