Update: Well, we didn’t see that one coming.
Kudos to you, sir.
Original story (22.08.17):
The upcoming Hellboy reboot from director Neil Marshall is already one of the most divisive and emotive subjects in the comic book movie world right now, thanks to the way in which the project, with the blessing of original creator Mike Mignola, has seemingly set itself in direct opposition to the Guillermo del Toro series of movies. Anyone with any kind of interest in the property seems almost honour-bound to declare themselves as either Team Mignola or Team del Toro, given the former’s publicly-stated distaste for the previous movies, and the latter’s annoyance at being cut out of the loop once and for all.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that situation is going to get better any time soon, with the news broken by The Hollywood Reporter that the film has cast Ed Skrein as fellow BRPD member, Major Ben Daimio. In itself, casting Skrein in the film doesn’t seem like a bad move – he was entertainingly Statham-esque as the villainous Ajax in Deadpool, and joins a so-far-impressive cast that includes David Harbour in the titular role alongside Ian McShane (replacing the late John Hurt as Professor Broom) and Milla Jovovich (as the Blood Queen of the film’s previous working title).
The problem, however, is that in the comics, Ben Daimio is of Japanese-American ethnicity. Camden-born Skrein is very firmly not. And we’re sure that we don’t need to tell you that in the wake of similar controversies in films like Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell, casting like this feels like an increasingly tone-deaf move to make. Daimio may not be a particularly well-known character, and certainly isn’t one of comics’ most famous or prominent Asian figures, but it still raises the question of why use the character’s name at all if you don’t want to cast the appropriate race for the role.
Up to this point, we’d have said that any controversies surrounding this new film were perhaps unfair towards Marshall – a talented and interesting filmmaker – and his cast, who should at least be left to actually make the film before bearing any judgements over how it compares to the previous series. But this feels like a decision that can only harm perception of the movie, and one that could easily have been avoided. It remains to be seen whether this particular instance of whitewashing will be acknowledged or justified, or if the makers will refrain from commenting on it altogether.
Hellboy (previously known as Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen) is due for release in 2018.
Photo: Gage Skidmore