After seeing the awesome trailer for Neil Marshall’s upcoming Hellboy reboot, I can confirm that I’m excited to see what the new movie brings to the table. Sure, the new film has big shoes to fill given that the previous Hellboy movies, directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman as the cigar-chomping demonic superhero, are beloved by fans and deserved to end on their own terms. But the situation is what it is, and that’s just the cyclical nature of Hollywood.
I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that Marshall’s movie lives up to its potential and gives Mike Mignola’s splendid creations a new lease of life on the big screen. At the same time, when it comes to Hellboy movies, there will always be a pang of regret among fans who long for the completion of del Toro’s trilogy. For close to a decade, the on-again, off-again third installment kept us teased. But the sequel was never meant to be, despite continued attempts to make it happen.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is one of the best superhero movies ever made, but it’s far from the satisfying conclusion to Red’s cinematic journey that fans wanted. That’s simply because his story wasn’t over yet. In the film, we learned that his better half, Liz (Selma Blair), was pregnant with their twins, which meant our demon was about to become a daddy. He also quit the B.P.R.D, and there were also hints that Hellboy was destined to embrace his dark destiny and become an apocalyptic harbinger. Needless to say, he had some big life decisions to make which would have made for some riveting cinema.
Little is known about the proposed sequel’s story, but it would have dealt with the apocalypse. “We did have ideas for the third one that were quite heartbreaking,” del Toro told IGN. “The third one would be essentially the end of days. It would be very grand, operatic and quite tragic.”
So, what stood in the way of the movie being made?
For a start, finding funding was tricky. Neither Hellboy film was a mammoth box office success, though they did still generate a modest profit. The Golden Army made about $160m worldwide on the back of an $85m budget. This was more successful than the first movie, which made just over $99m worldwide on a $66m investment. According to del Toro, Hellboy 3 would have cost in the region of $120m so you can understand why finding funding was an arduous task.
That said, while both films’ box office performance was considered too middling in the eyes of the producers, the franchise still found an audience on home media and attracted a strong cult fan base. As such, talk of a Hellboy sequel never quite left the pop culture conversation. In the years that followed, there were enough dangling threads of hope to hold onto to believe that the film could see the light of day eventually. Even if nothing had been set in stone.
Of course, another distraction was del Toro’s busy schedule. As we’ve discussed in the past, the director is always attached to projects which rarely see the light of day. After The Golden Army, he signed on to direct The Hobbit and spent months developing the movie before dropping out following the film’s well-publicized pre-production difficulties. Afterward, Hellboy 3 remained on the backburner.
Del Toro was attached to other projects in the passing years, but he wouldn’t direct another movie until 2013’s Pacific Rim. Of course, while he was promoting his kaiju-versus-robots opus before the film’s release, Hellboy 3 was brought up, and del Toro was hopeful that he’d get round to making it eventually. This was also around the same time when interest in the sequel flared up again following Perlman’s visit to the Make-A-Wish Foundation dressed as the demonic superhero.
However, during a Reddit AMA in 2014, del Toro confirmed that the movie wasn’t happening. “[W]e have gone through basically every studio and asked for financing, and they are not interested.” At the time, his words sounded final. But if the saga of trying to get Hellboy 3 made taught us anything, it’s that the never-to-be sequel always remained an itch del Toro wanted to scratch.
In 2017, del Toro took to Twitter to see if there was any interest in one last outing for Red. If he was satisfied with the response, he promised to arrange a meeting with Mike Mignola and Ron Perlman to discuss the franchise’s future. Naturally, the tweet got plenty of traction and fans came out in their droves to push for that meeting with Mignola.
Unfortunately, our hopes were buried one month with a heartbreaking tweet from the director. “Spoke with all parties. Must report that 100 percent the sequel will not happen.” The reboot entered production shortly after, and the rest is history. Perhaps if the Hellboy movies were released a few years later, when the world started experiencing the superhero movie fever that’s dominated the cinematic landscape for over a decade now, they could have made a stronger impact at the box office.
Del Toro never getting to see his vision for Red through to the end will always be a case of wondering what could have been. But the future of Hellboy is still exciting. Like del Toro, Marshall is a quality director of genre fare who brings passion to all of his projects, and the Hellboy universe suits his pulpy horror sensibilities. David Harbour also appears to be a fitting replacement for Perlman, and I have no doubt he’ll make the role his own. When you throw in writers Christopher Golden, Andrew Cosby and Mignola to proceedings, we can feel comfortable knowing that the story is in good hands. Plus, should the movie be successful, we might see that Hellboy Cinematic Universe Mignola has talked about in the past. That would be delightful.