Review - Hellboy II: The Golden Army
By Matthew Huntley
July 16, 2008
In an amusing side story, Manning hires a German agent to help manage BPRD and keep an eye on Hellboy. This is Johann Kraus, an "ectoplasmic spirit with psychic abilities," whom, I learn from Wikipedia, came to be his present self after conducting a séance during a psychic version of Chernobyl, which took away his human form. He now functions from a containment suit and runs things completely by the book. In one of the movie's funniest scenes, Kraus tells Hellboy his greatest flaw is his short temper, resulting in a creative sequence involving lockers.
Not only does Hellboy II have better characters than the original, but the returning ones are also better developed. Perlman is still cool and lax as Hellboy, now more comfortable in the role, and Liz has more screen time. Selma Blair isn't the greatest actress, but she fits this role nicely. I enjoyed Hellboy and Liz's petty squabbling, thanks mostly to Perlman's irreverent attitude.
The plot revolves around Prince Nuada's plan to vanquish the human race because of their greedy and selfish nature. It's simple, yes, but Nuada is not made out to be a standard villain. He believes in a just cause and he actually puts up a good case when he tries to convince Hellboy to join him. An odd but sweet relationship also forms between Abe and Nuada's sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton). An inspired scene shows Abe getting drunk with Hellboy because both males have women problems.
Thanks to del Toro's relentless energy and affection for his story, Hellboy II was a film I could not call. Everything that happens in it doesn't seem to happen for the sake of the plot. It feels more rhythmic and spontaneous; it's also unpredictable. There's always something going on, but it's not overwhelming or daunting. del Toro finds a balance between the multiple storylines and relationships, which seamlessly blend and each finds appreciable screen time.
Then there are the special effects, which will be what's most remembered from the film, and with good reason. The monsters and creatures, many of which we see after Hellboy and the gang take a trip to a troll market underneath Brooklyn Bridge, are layered, textured and incredibly detailed, even in the close-ups. The fight scenes are also well-staged and we're able to follow what's going. They're not crazily cut and the choreography keeps the energy levels thriving. The best scene finds Hellboy fighting a Forest God while holding a baby, a scene made even better because Hellboy is allowed to ponder the idea of not destroying it.
After you see it, you may think I'm giving Hellboy II too much praise. Perhaps it's because it awakened in me a little kid yearning for a sense of imagination and wonder, which this film ceaselessly provides. Or maybe this is really a terrific entertainment with superb production values. For me, the film worked on so many levels it deserves multiple viewings.
Next up for del Toro is the much-anticipated The Hobbit, and while it will be the film's name that draws people into theaters, it will be the director who makes them remember it. The jolly, infectious del Toro has proven he's a man who simply loves going to the movies, and it's that love that makes his own films special and imaginative.