It’s been 11 years since fan-favorite comic book character Hellboy was last on the big screen, in 2008’s HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY. When Big Red makes his return to AMC on April 12, it’ll be with an all-new director, Neil Marshall, and a brand-new actor, David Harbour of “Stranger Things,” playing the half-demon hero.
The new story is faithful to the original comics by Mike Mignola, and so another new addition to Hellboy’s cinematic world is a villain: Nimue the Blood Queen. But who is Nimue, aside from “a person with a really cool name”? Read on to find out.
She’s a Myth-tory
To start off, Nimue is based on a character from Arthurian mythology. She’s an enchantress who learned as much magic as she could from the OG wizard Merlin — and subsequently imprisoned him in a tree. Or a cave. Or underneath a rock. Look, there are a lot of different versions of Arthurian mythology.
There are different versions of Nimue, too. The “imprisons King Arthur’s kindly old mentor in a tree” thing sounds pretty villainous. But elsewhere in the stories of Arthur, Nimue can be found as the Lady of the Lake, who gives Arthur the magical sword Excalibur and raises the heroic knight Lancelot from the dead. Over the centuries, some writers — like Alfred, Lord Tennyson — have split “deceitful villain” Nimue and “sword-lobbing, Lady of the Lake” Nimue into two different characters. Oh, and she also has a ton of different names: Viviane, Niniane, Nyneve and Vivienne, just to name a few.
(While this does not pertain to HELLBOY, at this point we feel compelled to point out that strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.)
Nimue pops up from time to time in pop culture. We saw her in the 1998 miniseries “Merlin,” played by Miranda Richardson as the Lady of the Lake and Isabella Rossellini as Nimue. She appeared in the BBC drama “Merlin,” in Guy Ritchie’s KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD and in the hit ABC series “Once Upon a Time.”
Enter the Blood Queen
The “Hellboy” comics, unsurprisingly, pick the more villainous bits of Nimue’s story for their version of the character. On the page, she’s a witch who learned the secrets of magic from Merlin, whom she subsequently imprisoned. She went insane and started worshipping an eldritch horror known as the Ogdru Jahad. Other witches, none too pleased, killed her, cut her body into a bunch of pieces and buried those pieces deep underground.
Overkill? Maybe. Regardless, centuries down the line, the witches need a new leader, and Nimue’s body is still hanging around. Why not resurrect her by pouring a bunch of blood in her makeshift coffin? What’s the worst that could happen?
Brought back to life, Nimue the Blood Queen takes vengeance on her fellow witches, calling herself the Goddess of War and raising an army so she can take over the world. So, there’s that.
In the new HELLBOY, Nimue the Blood Queen is played by Milla Jovovich. Through her three-decade-plus career, she’s been in her share of non-horror, non-supernatural movies, like Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, Ben Stiller’s ZOOLANDER, and Richard Attenborough’s CHAPLIN. (That last film was notable for giving Robert Downey Jr. one of his first big breakthrough performances and one of his two Oscar® nominations.)
Jovovich is really known, however, for sci-fi and horror, which puts her right at home here. She played Leeloo in THE FIFTH ELEMENT and starred as Alice in all six movies in the RESIDENT EVIL series, based on the popular zombie video game franchise. As Alice, Jovovich faced a seemingly endless wave of demonic enemies, and we’re eager to see how she approaches the tables being turned in HELLBOY.
See HELLBOY when it comes to AMC on April 12.