The HELLBOY reboot is now in theaters and the reaction has been…mild at best. Regardless, new HELLBOY actor David Harbour’s performance has generally been received as one of the film’s best elements. That being said, it begs the question: Which Hellboy is better? Harbour’s, or Ron Perlman’s performance from the original Guillermo Del Toro film? Let’s find out.

Ron Perlman: The Original HELLBOY Actor

The first time Hellboy got a live-action film treatment was in 2004. Written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro, HELLBOY focuses on the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense and their resident paranormal investigator/fighter. He also happens to be a red-skinned demon named Hellboy who was summoned to our world by the Nazis at the end of WWII.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Sony

Raised to be a human by the BPRD’s director, Hellboy does not have the typical characteristics or assumed the personality of a demon. Hellboy even shaves his horns down to appear more human. He also loves cats and candy. Hellboy works alongside Abe Sabian, a humanoid amphibious man, and Liz Sherman, a woman with unpredictable fire abilities. Hellboy himself is played by actor Ron Perlman, who has an ironic sense of humor and a rebellious attitude. In the first film, Hellboy and company attempt to stop the wizard Rasputin from summoning monsters to take over the world. Rasputin also happens to be the same man who helped the Nazis summon Hellboy all those years ago.

HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY

The second film is HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY. In this 2008 sequel, Hellboy is working to stop the Elven Prince Nuada from activating the Golden Army, which he hopes to use to end humanity and their perceived tyranny upon the world and its more magical and fantastic species.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Sony

As the film goes on, Hellboy exposes himself to the public and confirms his and his friends’ existence to the world. THE GOLDEN ARMY features much more special effects, both CGI and practical. Hellboy interacts with a lot more monsters and creatures than he does in the first film. The world Del Toro builds on the second one feels bigger, and makes Hellboy seem not as strange or different.

Perlman’s Hellboy Focused on Romance and Acceptance

With both films, but especially with THE GOLDEN ARMY, Hellboy’s focus lies on being with Liz. They get together in the first and somewhat struggle to stay together in the second. This is because in the second one Hellboy allows the perceptions of humanity to get to him. He wants to be loved by all and struggles when they don’t. Initially, it seemed as though the love Liz had for him wasn’t enough. Eventually, he comes to realize that her love is all that he needs regardless of how others view him.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Sony

The initial desire for man’s acceptance opens the door for the antagonist Prince Nuada to make Hellboy a tempting offer. He asks Hellboy to join him, to stamp out humanity and that they’ll be treated like gods. Hellboy turned down the offer, stopping Nuada and the Golden Army.

David Harbour: The New HELLBOY Actor

With this new reboot, David Harbour takes the reins as the new HELLBOY actor. Even so, this new film sort of stays in the origin zone. While Hellboy’s been on the job for a while, there are still elements of his past that he learned for the first time as the plot progresses. The story also takes elements from several HELLBOY comic arcs, essentially blending them together with somewhat mixed results.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Lionsgate

Furthermore, Harbour’s Hellboy is similar to Perlman’s in that the core elements of the character are still present. He’s just as rebellious as he is in the other films and comics and still holds that ironic sarcastic humor as well. Nevertheless, Harbour’s depiction is a little more grounded. We don’t see any cats or candy, and Hellboy is a little more focused on getting the job done. He also doesn’t have any romantic ties or distractions like Perlman’s Hellboy.

Harbour’s Hellboy Focused on Father and Place in the World

Instead of romance, the new Hellboy focus lies more on his position in the world and resisting his inner demons than his predecessor does. Given the revelation he made that his father was at his Nazi summoning to kill him, Hellboy questions his entire relationship with his father and why he spared and raised him. Springing off of that comes the conflict between his work with BPRD and their killing of all paranormal beings and creatures they come in contact with. Their current threat, the Blood Queen, wishes for Hellboy to be her king, hoping to usher in a new world where they have dominion over all, yet she also promises peace between humanity and the paranormal races.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Lionsgate

Another element of Hellboy’s inner conflict is when he learns that he’s destined to conquer and bring about the apocalypse. He does everything he can to ignore that destiny, resisting his inner demon nature. He chooses to embrace the human part of him, wielding the sword Excalibur as he also learns he’s a part human descendant of King Arthur.

Who’s The Better HELLBOY Actor? That Depends on Preference

So, which HELLBOY actor is the better Hellboy? Well, it kind of depends upon what inner conflict you prefer more. Both actors embody the core of who Hellboy is. Harbour’s is a little more gritty and grounded than Perlman’s, but not by much. They’re both still playing a big and red gun-slinging demon. It’s essentially their circumstances and reactions that are different. If you like more of the gentle giant, Frankenstein, wishing to join and be loved by the rest of society’s sort of conflict, Perlman’s going to be more your speed. He’s also got more romantic elements to his character. Harbour’s Hellboy is going to be more of a battling inner demon (literally), finding one’s place in the world, and reconciling one’s actions in light of revelations from one’s past.

HELLBOY Actor
Image from Lionsgate

To conclude, each Hellboy actor depicts all the essentials of what makes Hellboy, Hellboy. However, their respective plots and circumstances bring different focuses and inner conflicts to the table. For instance, while I like the plots of the Del Toro films more, I do like Harbour’s Hellboy a little more than Perlman’s dues as I’m more interested in the focus there and the things that Harbour’s Hellboy deals with. In any case, I would recommend deciding for yourself, but maybe wait till HELLBOY (2019) gets its home release.

HELLBOY (2019) is now is theaters starring David Harbour.

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