The Hellboy (2019) reboot, starring David Harbour, is the opposite of 2018's Venom, and that's why it fails to be an enjoyable comic book superhero movie. Created by Mike Mignola in the 90s, Hellboy is a half-demon half-human character who was the focus of another film adaptation prior to 2019's iteration. In 2004, Guillermo del Toro released his Hellboy movie, starring Ron Perlman as Big Red, and the pair reteamed for 2008's Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Instead of del Toro's Hellboy 3, though, the studio chose to reboot the property, bringing in Harbour to star and Neil Marshall to direct.
However, reviews of the Hellboy reboot have not been favorable; Hellboy holds a 15 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. Beyond its reviews, it was also reported prior to the film's release that there was a great deal of drama behind-the-scenes on Hellboy, including clashes between the producers, director and star over various aspects of the movie. While some may attribute Hellboy's poor reviews and low box office performance on the reportedly difficult process of bringing the film to life, the fact remains that the Hellboy reboot could have been better. In fact, Hellboy could have learned a few things from Venom, the 2018 Marvel movie starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, a journalist who bonds with an alien symbiote named Venom.
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On their surface, Hellboy and Venom have very little in common aside from the fact that both movies are based on less mainstream comic book properties than major superhero blockbusters like The Avengers and Justice League. However, Hellboy and Venom are also much weirder premises than typical superhero fare. Hellboy is a half-human, half-demon with giant horns and the last living heir of King Arthur; Venom is a symbiote who bonds with Eddie as a host and a friend - and is an alien that likes to eat people. But whereas Venom plays into the ridiculous aspects of its premise and has some fun with it, Hellboy attempts to take a serious approach to its weirdness and the results are, frankly, boring.
Both Hellboy and Venom have to establish the worlds in which they're set. For Hellboy, that means diving into the magical side of the world and the legend of King Arthur as it connects to the Blood Queen and Hellboy himself. In Venom, it's the symbiotes and Carlton Drake's experiments with them. But while Venom uses the science to get to the core of the story - the relationship between Eddie and Venom - Hellboy seems to never move beyond the magical world-building exposition. Instead, Hellboy keeps introducing new aspects of the world in an attempt to develop Hellboy as a character, but he gets lost in all the explaining - that is, until a relatively quick third act showdown with the Blood Queen. So while Venom's weird world-building works to set up the most important part of the film, Hellboy's detracts from the titular character.
Further, whether on purpose or not, Venom establishes the relationship between Eddie and Venom as a friendship bordering on romantic - and the movie plays into that romantic element on more than one occasion (from Eddie and Venom's kiss to the "You are mine" line). The response to Eddie and Venom, called Symbrock by fans, was massive, inspiring fan art and memes all over the internet. Plenty has already been said on the Eddie and Venom dynamic in the movie and why viewers latched on to it so tightly, but what it boils down to is that their relationship is interesting to viewers. Fans of Venom range from those who describe Eddie and the symbiote's relationship as a buddy cop dynamic to those who would argue it's an outright romance - but they'd all agree it's the most important aspect of the movie, and that it's compelling.
In contrast, Hellboy doesn't have anything like Symbrock. Not even the character of Hellboy himself is as developed as the dynamic between Eddie and Venom and none of his relationships come close to being as compelling as the friendship between Eddie Brock and his symbiote parasite. Further, Hellboy takes its titular character in a baffling direction where the movie actively resists the idea that viewers may find Hellboy attractive. This is in direct contrast to the early images and posters of Hellboy that depict the character with his shirt off, abs and arms on full display seemingly playing into the idea that Hellboy is hot. With Venom, it wasn't entirely clear whether the movie intended the romantic subtext in Eddie and Venom's relationship, whereas Hellboy makes a conscious effort to depict its hero as actively unattractive as possible. It reveals a strange disconnect between the film and its marketing, which had some fun with the idea that fans could find Hellboy attractive. But the lack of subtext makes Hellboy that much more one-dimensional, contributing to the overall underdeveloped character.
Ultimately, while neither Venom nor Hellboy are "good" movies, both had the potential to be enjoyable popcorn flicks offering audiences a fun time where they can simply turn their brain off and enjoy. But, though Venom provides just that, Hellboy doesn't. Venom manages to appeal to audiences through the relationship between Eddie and the symbiote, helping to ground the film. Hellboy doesn't have a relationship or even a single character as well developed or as fun as the dynamic between Eddie and Venom, and it suffers for it. So while neither film was well received in terms of overall critical reviews, Venom managed to find an audience, whereas Hellboy didn't - at least, not to the tune of an $80 million opening weekend (though Venom is arguably a more well well known character than Hellboy). Hellboy could have learned a few things from Venom, but it fails to embrace its weirdness enough and provide an entertaining experience at the cinema - and that's why it fails.
- Hellboy (2019) release date: Apr 12, 2019