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Jul 12, 2008

Fletch's Film Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Where so many before have gone wrong, Hellboy II gets it right. Then again, it borrows quite a bit from some of the great ones that came before, so...more on that later.

Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army is that rarest of beasts: the sequel that bests its predecessor. By no means does that mean that the original was bad, but is a testament to all the places where II goes right.

Not picking up at all (really) from where the first left off, the sequel starts with a very brief introduction to Hellboy in case the audience hasn't seen the first film, then quickly dives into the new fairy tale - literally - via a reading by Hellboy's "father" (John Hurt, all too brief) of an epic battle between humans, elves and goblins. Young Hellboy (looking creepier as a child than as an adult, no doubt in part by having to find a child actor that could be molded to resemble Ron Perlman) is taken by the story, but really doesn't give too much thought to it.

Fast forward 50 years or so, and finally the unfinished story has caught up to Hellboy (and the rest of civilization). Borrowing more than a little from Lord of the Rings, it finds the elf Prince Nuada in search of three pieces to a golden crown that, when reunited and worn, give the wearer power over the indestructible titular army. As you might expect, its up to Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and the rest of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense to stop him.

However, unlike most villains (superhero or not), Nuada is fighting a noble fight. Seeing the destruction and corruption that humans are capable of (a sneaky pro-green message), he sees himself as the savior of all mythical creatures, and fights for their rights and domain (and as Nick points out, is quite like Magneto of the X-Men comics/movies). Given this added depth to the character, del Toro makes us sympathize with Nuada, even though we know he's gone too far and must be stopped. (It doesn't help that he looks and sounds almost exactly like Tom Cruise as Lestat from Interview with the Vampire.)

Along the way, del Toro employs a bevy of visual tricks and treats, but aside from a few shenanigans (a Men in Black hallways homage here, a Star Wars cantina homage there), they all serve a purpose, adding to the plot rather than merely serving as candy in between the story lines. They also look mind-numbingly real, a feat that should not be forgotten even in this digital age. Not once is the audience taken out of the film by blurry lines between the real and the digitally created, and the use of, you know, actual actors in costumes instead of CGI characters drives this point home even more.

Finally, it should be noted that the supporting characters aren't just window dressing, either. Even moreso than the original, Hellboy's best friend Abe and main squeeze Liz are given story lines that enhance Hellboy's own arc, play into the overall themes of the film, and give hints of things to come in the sure-to-be-seen third in the series.

Sharp writing, spectacular visuals, beautiful, meaningful characters and a strong story - watch out Iron Man, you just might have met your match with the rock-fisted red guy.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"It's in the darn tootin hole!"

P.S. - this really didn't belong anywhere else, but the only character creation that I really didn't like was Cathedral Head. Whereas all the other mythical creatures seemed to mirror, or at least resemble, some form of nature or humanity, he felt completely fabricated and just didn't fit in.

9 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

The Mad Hatter said...

"It doesn't help that he looks and sounds almost exactly like Tom Cruise as Lestat from Interview with the Vampire"...

I *thought* he looked familiar!

Nick said...

lol... wow, our reviews are almost identical.

make money at home said...

The talented fantasy filmmaker and heir to the Lord of the Rings throne gets the tone right throughout Hellboy 2, and the hip retro charm alone is enough to merit recommendation.
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Daniel G. said...

I'm so glad that this one "doesn't pick up at all" from the original, since I didn't see it and enjoyed this one quite a bit. Is the Cathedral Head that guy in the Troll Market?

Check this out.

Fletch said...

Awesome link, Daniel. Yes, Cathedral Head was in the map store at the Troll Market.

Great minds think alike, Nick.

J.D. said...

Nice review. I really dug this film as well. As much as I really enjoyed the first one, you're right, this one is even better. I really like how Del Toro developed the relationship between Liz and Hellboy, including the drunken singalong to Barry Manilow with Abe Sapien when he and Liz are on the outs -- that was a nice touch. I also loved the antagonistic relationship between Hellboy and Johann. Very funny.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I was disappointed with II. Then again I didn't like the first one much. I was hoping though that two would be better given the hype and reviews. I even went in not expecting much but still was disappointed.

I loved the creatures and troll market but the plot seemed rushed and the ending abrupt. I don't know, then again I'm very picky with my films.

WaywardJam said...

Completely agree. II improved on the original, the backstory of the entire BPRD sets up lots of great stories to come and generally gets me excited at what comes next.

Iron Man, fell at the feet of Hellboy for me. Just barely, but he did fall.

Dead Pan said...

I think your review does the film a great justice. Check out mine and let me know what you think.

I really agree with you about how the characters(creatures) look realistic and love how they weren't created with CGI but with costumes and such.