Review - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
By Matthew Huntley
July 16, 2008
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is proof that big budget, Hollywood extravaganzas can still exceed our expectations. This is an inventive, visually stimulating adventure film that tells a traditional albeit exciting story to let us know it's not just about special effects and makeup. When it comes to comic book adaptations, or even action films in general, Hellboy II is so ambitious it almost deserves its own league.
I'm not exactly sure what my expectations were. The director, once again, is Guillermo del Toro, the gifted filmmaker behind Pan's Labyrinth and producer of The Orphanage, one of the best horror films in recent memory. The man knows cinema; he's a pure visualist who simply loves the medium in which he's engrossed himself. For del Toro, movies are about images that tell a story and he's nailed that concept.
While I enjoyed the first Hellboy (2004), I felt its convoluted plot sometimes got in the way of the characters. This time, the plot may be simpler but it's also more focused. What it lacks in complexity it gains in coherence and spirit.
In an amusing flashback to 1955, a pre-teen Hellboy, whom you'll recall is a red-skinned demon saved by the American army after World War II, listens excitedly as his adopted father, Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt), tells him the story of The Golden Army. Legend has it humans and mythical creatures used to live in harmony but fell into war with each other after humans developed a hole in their hearts and became greedy.
The King of the Elves, King Balor, commissions for a gold crown to be made that allows its user to summon near 5,000 soldiers to fight the human race. Once he witnesses the devastation the army causes, he forms a truce with the humans that will let them have the cities and the creatures the forests. The crown is split into three pieces - one piece is given to the humans and two are kept by King Balor. Balor's son, Prince Nuada (Luke Gross), never approved of the truce and went into exile as the Golden Army lay dormant.
Some 50 years later, we catch up with the adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman) at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. He's now in a rocky relationship with Liz (Selma Blair), the pyrokinetic who's learned to better manipulate her powers (just don't make her mad). There's also Abe (Doug Jones), the slithery, fish-like psychic with a taste for high society, and Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), the director of the BPRD who works hard to keep it a clandestine operation. Manning pops antacid tablets every time he sees Hellboy posing for the paparazzo.
Hellboy and company are called in to investigate a disturbance at a New Jersey auction house, where Prince Nuada arrived to retrieve the humans' piece of the Golden Crown. He was aided by Wink, a walrus-looking troll with a retractable fist. When BPRD arrives, all that's left are human entrails. Nuada released a horde of calcium-feeding insects, appropriately called "tooth fairies," which start by eating human teeth and work their way down the skeletal system. Liz works her magic to get rid of them, but the incident exposes the group to the public.