With 2019’s Hellboy managing an almost impressively low 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say the film didn’t live up to the potential that fans were hoping for it to reach.
Although there’s a wide variety of criticisms that have been placed at the feet of the film – ranging from the questionable British accents, to concerns the film attempted to be too similar to Suicide Squad – in these criticisms, one idea stays the same: that the film just didn't quite feel right.
With over half of the twelve original Hellboy comic volumes featuring within the movie itself, it’s easy to see how this feeling could emerge among viewers. Hellboy is by no means difficult to understand, but combining 50-odd comic issues into one two hour viewing experience was always going to prove an issue, especially when many of the comic volumes themselves are made up of several different stories.
This in mind, there seems one natural solution to all of Hellboy’s problems, and that is for it to not be a film in the first place. As the comic is divided into so many wildly different stories – both in physical location, and tone – it makes much more sense to divide an adaptation into a format where it can be split into episodes, instead of having it all crammed into one film. Perhaps more importantly, it would also get rid of the breakneck pace the film had to move at, letting a series instead focus more on the characters – which is the real highlight of the franchise as a whole.
Perhaps more importantly, it would also allow for the comic's story to not be watered down due to time constraints in the way the film felt. For example, the ending of the film - although by no means bad - was disappointing in the sense that Hellboy didn't die, whereas his comic equivalent does. While this initially sounds a little morbid, it's actually crucial story-wise because Hellboy's death marks the beginning of another comic series - the memorably named Hellboy in Hell - which is arguably one of the most unique and engaging comics the franchise has to offer.
While the film can't be blamed for not including it - after all, adding in Hellboy in Hell would basically double its length, and to just end the film with Hellboy's death would be outright depressing - it does highlight just how much better a Netflix show equivalent could have made the story, as ending a season with the heroes death would have instead just been an exciting plot-hanger.
So, why Netflix? Well, Netflix has managed a stunning job at the superhero series – as the reception to The Umbrella Academy and Titans has more or less proven – so there’s a good chance they would avoid some of the pitfalls that the film suffered from. Crucially, it has also proven that a Netflix adaption could properly handle the balance of humour, horror, and downright tragedy that makes the series so amazingly interesting. This wouldn't even need to step on the toes of the film itself, as between the B.P.R.D Hellboy series, and the various spin-off titles, an entire series could be based off the side material alone.
The BPRD comics are split, much like the main series, into a series of different tales and adventures involving Hellboy and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. They feature an equally varied series of mysteries and monsters that Hellboy and his team have to face, with the added side benefit that there is much less focus on Hellboy's potential world-ending fate, and more on the general wonder and weirdness that exists within the universe itself. Seeing how the team react to more everyday situations - or, as everyday as working for a secret paranormal investigation company can be - you get a real insight into what makes the characters tick, which would counter the lack of characterisation many fans felt the film suffered from. In essence, Hellboy has the potential to be the Buffy of the new age - and it's borderline inevitable that, with the increasing Netflix adaptation of less well-known comics, Hellboy will be mentioned at some point.
With a practical endless cast of wonderfully-designed characters, monsters, and everything in between, the sheer span of the Hellboy universe almost demands a media expansion - and with the lack of success of the newest film version, there's some very real potential for the franchise to be allowed a chance to work in a different format.
Although the end of the Hellboy film explicitly sets up for another film, it may be best to learn from the movie’s mistakes and adjust accordingly – which may mean that future Hellboy endeavors aren’t movies at all.