Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Guillermo del Toro's latest is an unstoppable force
By Adam Frazier

Director Guillermo del Toro has a fixation, a fetish even, for great-looking monsters. His films, so beautifully draped in rich colors and fantastical myth, are often populated by a vast hodgepodge of exotic creatures. From insects, fairies and trolls to tentacle beasts, fauns and firestarters, del Toro's films ignite the imagination with ideas of what might go bump in the night.

After writing and directing the highly acclaimed "Pan's Labyrinth," del Toro turned down numerous film projects to direct a sequel to his 2004 adaptation of Mike Mignola's comic, "Hellboy." The delightfully macabre "Hellboy" is about a demon who finds himself fighting alongside the U.S. government against diabolical dark forces bent on world domination. "Hellboy" has a level of folklore and myth to it that certainly makes it stand out compared to other comic book or superhero films, and del Toro's style and sensibility always seemed like the perfect fit for Mignola's comic.

In "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," del Toro is up to his old tricks again - packing dark, moody worlds with monsters of all shapes and sizes. Ron Perlman is back as Hellboy, a big red demon raised by man, who loves American television, kittens and fine Cuban cigars. His girlfriend, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) is a cute, seemingly ordinary girl with the strange ability to engulf her body in fire. Then there's Abraham Sapien (Doug Jones), A blue-green bookworm with gills and flippers.

Together they work with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D) to track down the bad guys, whether it's advocates of Nazi occultism or your occasional ogre that gets out of line. Hellboy and his team are, as the late Professor Broom put it, the ones who bump back. In "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," the mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his friends must fight for humanity, whether they appreciate it or not.

The leader of this magical rebellion is Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a skilled warrior with intentions of using a fabled golden army to vanquish humanity and take back what, he believes, is rightfully his. Not the entire mythical world agrees with Nuada, however, namely his twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton). She believes it is her kind's duty to honor the pact made between their kind and humans so long ago - and using the golden army would be a diabolical abortion of that pact.

Whereas "Hellboy" dealt with the more practical elements of Mignola's universe - mad scientists and Nazis and historical legend, "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" explores the mythical, fairytale aspects. The film opens with a wonderful prologue that shows Hellboy as a, well, a young boy. He's decked out in pajamas watching Howdy Doody (It's the 50s after all) when his father (the always brilliant John Hurt) reads him a bedtime story. Instantly del Toro focuses the style and heart of this movie in a well-told bedtime story.

We are treated to a wonderful animated envisioning of humanity battling mythical beasts. There is a great blend of computer animation with classic special effects techniques like stop-motion photography - the bread and butter of guys like Ray Harryhausen, whom del Toro deeply admires.

Not only is the film sure to appeal to those like-minded individuals who have an obsession for monsters, but it's so laugh-out-loud funny and absurd at moments that general audiences will surely get a kick out of the expertly crafted mix of comedy, action and visual stimulus. The story, while on the surface may seem like nothing more than a simple superhero flick, has some deep roots in folklore and del Toro reminds us that without myth - without magic - we would be a poorer species.

In one particular scene, where Hellboy and his team enter a hidden troll market (under a bridge, go figure), flashes of my childhood crawled up my spine and slammed into my brain, sending neurons dancing about - igniting my imagination to a scary, 8-year-old kid kind of level. The troll market is reminiscent of the Mos Eisely Cantina scene in "Star Wars." You've been introduced to this fantastic world, and suddenly, hidden deep in some far-off corner of that world, there is an area teeming with life.

In the troll market there are hordes of unique monsters to stare in awe at. Trolls and ogres and goblins, all merchants selling assorted goods like boiled eyeballs and such. There are street performers - musicians and organ grinders looking for some small compensation for their talents. There's even a monster that doubles as a barber, gently applying shaving cream to another bizarre-looking creature before swiftly and skillfully shaving away the thing's stubble.

Is "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" a flawless film - no. The acting can be cheesy and campy at times, but isn't that in the spirit of the story? I think so. Overall, if you enjoyed the first film or were blown away by "Pan's Labyrinth" then you should definitely see this film. Maybe it isn't a masterpiece, but it's one of the best films of 2008 and one of the more nourishing, entertaining films of this summer.

Reviewed by: adam
8 Comment(s)
Shea said...
Liked Hellboy and want to love Hellboy 2...

I am tired of hearing that bad acting is in "the spirit of the story"... its really no excuse SELMA BLAIR!!!

But I can definitely smile and handle... "Same over here BABE" "Stop calling me babe"... "I didn't, I said Abe".

Really excited about this movie. I think Del Toro has come along way since Mimic and Blade 2.

I can't wait to have a validated opinion.
Adam said...
I want to watch "Mimic" for some reason...
Shea said...
I think you will be disappointed. But there is still some del Toro's falvor hidden throughout.
Nick said...
Wow, I didn't realize Mimic was del Toro... I remember watching that movie years ago... though I guess I can see some of his style in the cinematography...
Shea said...
Definitely liked this one better than the original. Much better story, much better villain, much more creatures, much better everything.

I made the mistake of watching this after watching the Dark Knight. There were things I LOVED, but there were things I thought were just plain corny.

Disappointments:
- The singing drunk scene was funny enough but WAY too long.
- The sped up fighting scenes felt a little too "Little Rascals"-ish.
- As much as it pains me too say it... TOO MANY CREATURES! I love creatures, but especially in the troll market there were some walking by that I was like... seriously? Isn't that just a man on stilts with a grocery cart on his head? Luckily they never focused in much on any of the lazily made creatures... All the creatures with speaking parts were AMAZING though!
- The scene "You have to get over your temper" was this big deal thing, but really had ZERO point in the plot of the film.
- When the Prince talked he kind of sounded like Zoolander. (watch it again... I gaurantee you will agree). "I have come to take back what is rightfully mine.... BLUE STEEL!"
- The way they kill the giant forest creature. It's the giver and destroyer of life! It bursts through the concrete! And it only takes 2 gunshots to disable it... 3 to kill it? come on... And I hated the "it's beautiful" scene following it's death.
- Fatty Mr. Tumnus on a rickshaw cart... Come on, you designed the golden army and you couldn't design something better than a few blocks of wood and an old cart for your mobility? Or at least a rickity old cart that can go down stairs!

Pure Ecstacy:
- Anytime it switched from the Little Rascals fast motion to slow motion I about peed my pants.
- "I'm not a baby. I'm a tumor" haha. Loved it
- "Like a shadow... Like a shadow... in the NIGHT!". Loved it.
- THE MAIN CHARACTER CREATURES! Any creature that did more than just walk through the shot was unfreakin' believable.
- My favorite creature was the one who removes the spearhead from Hellboy. I loved the really high and really low voices blended together. Great concept. And I loved the "Make your choice" scene when he reveals Hellboys destiny to the flame girl.
- Big Baby! and "You woke up the baby!"
- Liked the blue golden army dude fighting with Hellboy as well. That scene was sweet.
- The scene where the prince kills his father was probably my favorite in the whole film. Especially the death blow... even though I had seen it 20 times in the previews already.
- I actually loved all the placements of modern or quirkly music in the soundtrack. Especially the You're a freak song, and the ending quircky outro music.

The lame stuff knocked this movie down a bit in my opinion. I think I would have given a 3.5 All in all I really enjoyed it though. It was a great combo of action and comedy...
Almost forgot... I also loved the stop motion intro scene thing too. I think that's very difficult to pull off and Del Toro did it beautifully and seemlessly.
Shea said...
Yeah I tend to agree and disagree on many of your opinions Chris. For example I didnt mind the legless tumness and didn't think twice about the extras in the market.

I also didnt mind how little it took to kill the flora godess or whatever its called.

I probably agree with you on the Temper scene; it never panned out although it did make me laugh.

I loved everything about the bad guy... even his zoolander voice.

i would probably give it 4 stars.