'HELLBOY II' a Journey Worth Taking - Mania.com



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  • Movie: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Hurt, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, James Dodd, Jeffrey Tambor
  • Written By: Guillermo Del Toro (Based on Mike Mignola characters)
  • Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures

'HELLBOY II' a Journey Worth Taking

Guillermo del Toro applies his big-screen style and clout to Mike Mignola's comic...to wonderful effect!

By Rob M. Worley     July 10, 2008


Hellboy II Movie Poster
© Universal Pictures

Guillermo del Toro has made a career of bouncing back and forth between intimate, indie horror films and higher-budgeted Hollywood studio pics. Last year his beloved fantasy film 'Pan's Labyrinth' (which he wrote, directed and produced) collected six Oscar nominations and ushered the foul-mouthed Mexican auteur through a new threshold. With 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army' del Toro returns to studio filmmaking where he left it, but now armed with the clout and budget to deliver a comic book movie as a rich fantasy piece that only he could envision.

The movie picks up a year or so after the previous effort. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Liz (Selma Blair) are sharing a room at the BPRD and squabbling like any couple who have departed the honeymoon phase of a relationship. Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is frustrated with his big Red ward, who refuses to maintain a low profile as ordered. Hellboy, it seems, now craves the adulation of the public.

At the same time, the fairy Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) has resolved to assemble the three parts of the royal crown which will allow him to activate the invincible Golden Army of clockwork soldiers, wage war on humankind and bring is people out from the shadows they've been forced to inhabit for many centuries.

As Hellboy realizes that the love of a good woman or an adoring public are difficult to hang onto, he starts to wonder if he's fighting on the wrong side by killing creatures that he sometimes resembles.

If you're a del Toro fan...

'Hellboy II' is clearly a Guillermo del Toro movie, far moreso than the previous film or its del Toro-produced animated follow ups. It is, front to back, stuffed with fantastic creatures and rich mythologies.

The movie opens with a wooden puppet recreation of the story of the Golden Army's inception. From there we go to the halls of the BRPD, where strange monsters are glimpsed here and there as Abe Sapien (Doug Jones – and only Doug Jone) brings Manning up to speed on the state of affairs. Then it's off to the auction house where Nuada unleashes the hulking Mr. Wink and a swarm of tooth fairies, which a short time later prove to be among the most formidable creatures the BPRD team has faced. That is, until a giant Earth Elemental begins to destroy the city.

And that's just the first act.

I would defy anyone to gather more than ten minutes of footage from 'Hellboy II' where some fanciful creature or mythological technology is not on-screen. Fans of del Toro know it's not only about wonderful creatures, but the way in which they resonate with a sense of history and purpose. You're not always told the back story and inner-workings of the myriad of creatures you see in this film, but you have a clear scenes that there is a back story and that the inner-workings are fully thought out.


The movie is like 'Pan's Labyrinth' with all the talking parts removed and then pumped with a giant syringe of adrenaline. It may be nothing more than a big-budget, popcorn action vehicle for allowing del Toro to pour his imagination onto the screen, but that's certainly not a bad thing.

If you're a Mike Mignola fan...

Fans of the Hellboy comics may have a more difficult time enjoying the movie. As someone who has read just about every Hellboy comic since the character first appeared in 'John Byrne's Next Men', I have to say I had some reservations about del Toro's handling of the characters.

Hellboy seems like quite a bully in the early goings of the film. Yes, smashing things is his bit, but I don't recall him being so aggressively cruel as he is in this movie, punching trolls who don't answer his questions and bitch-slapping one character repeatedly with his iron hand in order to extract info.

Liz Sherman has it even worse. When we first meet her she's shrieking at Hellboy in what's meant to be a lover's quarrel. However, we have no idea what her issues are so she just comes off like a shrewish harridan. She's the girlfriend you desperately hope your pal is going to dump soon.

I will say that the two seem to find their legs by the end of the third act.

Abe comes across as quite fey, in contrast to the capable agent we see in the current 'B.P.R.D.' comics.

The Johann Krauss character (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) has it the worst. Del Toro's treatment of this character reminds me a bit of Joel Schumacher's treatment of various Batman villains: the name and likeness are used, but the character is otherwise relegated to some role that conveniently fits the plot, but isn't aligned with their comic persona. Here Krauss is a veteran B.P.R.D. agent who is imported to reign in Hellboy's antics. He essentially replaces Manning as the annoying authority figure in the film.

I'm not usually one to quibble with deviations from the source material and, truth be told, my discomfort with these off-note characterizations were easily offset by the wonders of Guillermo’s creature-generating mind.

Overall...

All told, 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army' is a rich fantasy adventure, framed as superhero action. Guillermo's beautiful and sweeping depictions of a secret world populated innumerable creatures, bizarre and breathtaking, is a joy to behold. If you can cope with deviations from the comic mythos, and some bumpy plotting here and there, the realm of the Golden Army is a place well worth jouneying to.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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NotAFan 7/11/2008 2:57:57 AM
My big problem with the first movie was that the villans, except for the human weedwhacker, sucked. It looks like they corrected this though. GOOD! I like the character of HELLBOY. THe plan is only to make 1 more anyway might as well let them do it!
wessmith1966 7/11/2008 3:11:42 PM
Took in a matinee of the film today. I wasn't a big fan of the first film or the characters (Never read the comic book), and after second, my mind hasn't been changed. I loved the look of the film with the world within the world. Guillermo is certainly "visionary" as the ads say. The creatures and everything about the world they live in are just beautiful to look at. I liked the the main plot of the story and how the backstory was told, but with the exception of Hellboy and Abe sharing a few beers and Abe's being smitten by the love bug I didn't like the subplots. I'm probably a minority here, but my problem is I don't really like Hellboy and Liz all that much. I didn't get any connection with the characters at all. I do like Abe, and he as actually given a lot to do in this film. For me, Hellboy just isn't a very sympathetic character in any respect. The effects were good and the action was enjoyable, but for me this would be more of a Netflix film. I don't really think it's worth a full-price admission. I guess I'd have to give it a C for a grade.
lracors 7/12/2008 10:09:27 PM
I saw the midnight showing of Hellboy and since i'm a huge fan of the comic i suppose my grade will be affected by that but I really didn't see anything wrong with the film other than regulating Tom Manning as comic foil vs any real leadership skills. I really enjoyed the film from the casting to the writing and visually... WOW this is just a complete marvel to behold. Guillermo really gave us a great sequence in the Troll Market. That is right up there with the cantina scene in the original Star Wars. I love the characters the comradery between the team of Liz, Abe and Hellboy it felt more like a family in this film then the 1st. I have to give this an A-.
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