There is a certain school of thought which believes that filmmakers often take on big-budget projects they have no personal interest in to finance smaller movies they want to make. But director Guillermo Del Toro recently proved his work on Hellboy and its sequel was nothing short of a passion project, in a series of tweets regarding the movies. The filmmaker starts by mentioning how unexpected the success of the first Hellboy was to the studio.
"What allowed the two films to exist, it's gone. The Blu-ray DVD performance of the first Hellboy was massive. So big that Ben Feingold, at Columbia, went full-on on the sequel development. Ben was so impressed by those numbers that he made 'Hellboy' one of the very first Blu-rays from Columbia Pictures. Far as I can recall, the number for home video surpassed theatrical."
Guillermo del Toro then declares that the first Hellboy is among the top five movies that he has directed. Fans will likely agree with that assessment. The original Helloboy offered a darkly operatic take on the comic character, featuring a wise-cracking protagonist, a government program dedicated to controlling the city's fairy population, and a prophecy to bring about the apocalypse with Hellboy at its center.
Getting the movie made was a tough challenge according to Del Toro, since the comic book movie boom was yet to happen.
"The first HELLBOY movie was developed BEFORE even X-MEN was on film. I remember visiting MYSTERY MEN's set to try to convince Universal to green light it. It languished for a long time. To my mind, the first BLADE was instrumental in showing how superhero movies could exist at the end of the 20th century. There was a collision of DARK CITY and BLADE that somehow, in subtle ways paved the way, via Anime, for MATRIX to explode into the world."
The filmmaker's notes are a reminder of how drastically the comic book movie landscape changed with the success of the first Iron Man and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. At the time when Del Toro's Hellboy was being made, he had to rely on other genre influences to get a feel for the type of film he wanted to make.
"But, still, back then it was a countermovement to try and do superhero films, especially with material that didn't have Marvel numbers. For many years, to me, the proto-comic book movie was Verhoeven's ROBOCOP in so many ways."
It is sad to consider that Guillermo Del Toro's distinctive take on comic book movies did not find their box office due because audiences back then were unfamiliar with the more bizarre comic book tropes that the films tried to portray. It is also a testament to the popularity of Marvel comic characters and the MCU's dedication to presenting a singular, populist version of comic book storylines that general audiences are now clamoring to see their movies.
While Del Toro has stayed away from comic book movies since Hellboy 2, he clearly feels strongly about the genre, which means fans might get to see him take on another comic book adaptation someday. He might even be persuaded to come back to the Hellboy franchise to complete the trilogy with a third movie in his series.