Horned and dangerous, Hellboy is back
Imagine the forges of hell crossed with the extraterrestrial saloon on Tatooine and you have a notion of Guillermo del Toros Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In every way the equal of his original Hellboy (2004), although perhaps a little noisier, its another celebration of his love for bizarre fantasy and diabolical machines. The sequel bypasses the details of Hellboys origin story, but adds a legend read to him as a child by his adoptive father (John Hurt), in which we learn of an ancient warfare between humans and, well, everybody else: trolls, monsters, goblins, the Tooth Fairy, everybody.There was a truce. The humans got the cities and the trolls got the forests. But humans have cheated on our end of the deal by building parking lots and shopping malls, and now Prince Nuada (Luke Gross) defies his father the king and hopes to start the conflict again. This would involve awakening the Golden Army: 70 times 70 slumbering mechanical warriors. Standing against this decision is his twin sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton).And so on. I had best not get bogged down in plot description, except to add that Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his sidekicks fight for the human side. His comrades include Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), sort of a fish-man, the fire-generating Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a Teutonic adviser named Johann Kraus (Seth McFarlane), and of course Princess Nuala. Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) from the secret center for extra-sensory perception tags along, but isnt much help except for adding irrelevancies and flippant asides.Now that we have most of the characters onstage, let me describe the sights, which are almost all created by CGI of course, but how else? Theres a climactic showdown between Hellboy and the prince, with the Golden Army standing dormant in what looks like the engine room of Hell. Enormous interlocking gears grind against each other for no apparent purpose, except to chew up Hellboy or anything else that falls into them. Lucky they arent perfectly calibrated.There are also titanic battles in the streets of Manhattan, involving gigantic octo-creatures and so on, but you know what? Although theyre well done, titanic battles in the streets of Manhattan are becoming commonplace in the movies these days. What was fascinating to me was what the octo-creature transformed itself into, which was unexpected and really lovely. Youll see.The towering creatures fascinated me less, however, than some smaller ones. For example, swarms of tens of thousands of calcium-eaters, who devour humans both skin and bone and are the source of the Tooth Fairy legend. They pour out of the walls of an auction house and attack the heroes, and in my personal opinion Hellboy is wasting his time trying to shoot them one at a time.I also admired the creativity that went into the Troll Market (it has a secret entry under the Brooklyn Bridge). Here I think del Toro actually was inspired by the Tatooine saloon in Star Wars, and brings together creatures of fantastical shapes and sizes, buying and selling goods of comparable shapes and sizes. It would be worth having the DVD just to study the market a frame at a time, discovering what secrets he may have hidden in there. The movies only rarely give us a genuinely new kind of place to look at; this will become a classic.There are, come to think of it, other whispers of the Star Wars influence in Hellboy II. Princess Nuala doesnt have Princess Leias rope of hair (just ordinary long blond tresses), but shes not a million miles distant from her. And Abe Sapien looks, moves and sort of sounds so much like C3PO that youd swear the robot became flesh and developed gills. I also noticed hints of John Williams Star Wars score in the score by Danny Elfman, especially during the final battle. Not a plundering job, you understand, more of an evocation of mood.What else? Two love stories, which Ill leave for you to find out about. And the duet performance of a song that is rather unexpected, to say the least. And once again a strong performance by Ron Perlman as Hellboy. Yes, hes CGI for the most part, but his face and voice and movements inhabit the screen figure, and make him one of the great comic heroes. Del Toro, who preceded Hellboy II with Pans Labyrinth (2006) and the underrated Blade II (2002) is warming up now for Doctor Strange and The Hobbit. He has an endlessly inventive imagination and understands how legends work, why they entertain us, and that they sometimes stand for something. For love, for example.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Universal presents a film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin. Written by Guillermo del Toro, based on the comic book by Mike Mignola. Photographed by Guillermo Navarro. Edited by Bernat Vilaplanao. Music by Danny Elfman. Running time: 120 minutes. Classified: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language). Rated: Three and a half stars.
Ann HornadayThe Washington PostThis summer, comic-book fans have been spoiled for choice at the multiplex. But despite the hype of Iron Man or anticipation of The Dark Knight, for a select few this season is about one thing: Hellboy II: The Golden Army.Those fans will be gratified by Guillermo del Toros affectionate sequel to his 2004 film Hellboy, in which he introduced the screens most lovable anti-superhero, a giant the color of boiled lobster with Chiclet teeth and a really bad attitude. The great Ron Perlman is back as the cigar-smoking, chocolate-addicted lug, who again is joined in his exploits by his equally funny and flawed cohorts: the gentle, blue-gilled Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), now Hellboys girlfriend and still prone to literally fiery outbursts.Del Toro co-wrote Hellboy II with the comics creator, Mike Mignola, so the enterprise reeks of authenticity and is shot through with the franchises signature goofiness, sarcasm and good heart. There are terrific new characters, including Johann Krauss, a hilarious addition to Hellboys team, and the white-haired villain Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), and such memorable set pieces as a visit to a troll market underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and a moment involving Hellboy, Abe and Barry Manilow. As he has done in all his movies, from creature features such as Mimic to serious dramas such as Pans Labyrinth, del Toro creates unforgettable images, filled with color, texture, lyricism and horror.
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