Discussing the divisive trailer for Neil Marshall’s "Hellboy"

Hellboy dir. Neil Marshall

Fans of the Dark Horse Comics anti-hero had been anticipating a trailer for Neil Marshall’s Hellboy reboot for quite some time.

Inevitably there were some praising the footage when it dropped, saying that it feels closer to the comics they adore. However, some couldn’t have disagreed more. For those that are disappointed, at least there is the Dark Horse Comics' Hellboy: 25 Years of Covers to look forward to, which celebrates the antihero's anniversary. 

Most who are in opposition of the upcoming film have voiced their distaste for the film’s light and comedic tone. Now, some fans of the trailer have come to its defence and pointed out that Guillermo del Toro’s films also employed a fair amount of honour, particularly the sequel. While this is certainly the case, the style of comedy prevalent in the Marshall footage feels slightly embarrassing. Almost the entire trailer consists of jokes and puns, and it feels like the marketing department are trying to sell a film in the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy without the strength of a genuinely comical script. It was strange to see that the first thorough glimpse of the film was so goofy and lighthearted because Marshall and others aboard the project have been teasing a darker, more genre-entrenched take on the character for many months now. By no stretch of the imagination is this trailer selling a darker vision.

A lot of viewers also expressed apathy towards David Harbour’s portrayal of Hellboy, arguing that he simply lacks the charisma of Ron Perlman. He certainly sounds and looks gruffer, but he comes across as a vessel for one-liners. Admittedly, it is way too early to be judging his performance - or even the film in general - but at the same time judgement can certainly be passed on what we have seen so far. It just feels like they have taken the franchise into the complete opposite direction they promised to, which screams studio interference and compromise. 

A good old-fashioned monster romp wouldn’t even be such a terrible thing really, but to pull that off you need a distinct visual style. Sadly, from the footage available comparisons can be drawn between Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, R.I.P.D and the last act of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Such comparisons are not meant to flatter, but simply offer the opinion that the target demographics for this trailer are blurry. One particular shot suggests a bloodier, R-rated take on the Hellboy mythos, but then the rest of the trailer looks to adopt a much more child-friendly approach. It certainly doesn’t appear to be the product of a filmmaker with a clear vision, rather a muddled piece of work that has been tampered with.

As previously stated, it is too early to condemn or applaud the film. Although, first impressions are important when it comes to blockbuster efforts like this, and our first encounter with Marshall’s film hasn’t instilled many with confidence. Hopefully, this is a trailer designed to draw in as vast an audience as possible, before the release of trailers which suggest the darker tone and direction Marshall was so insistent on taking.

In other news, check out this update on the Escape From New York remake. 

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