Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I find it odd that Hellboy II: The Golden Army even exists, let alone it’s position as a would-be summer blockbuster. The first Hellboy was released in Spring 2004 and made an unspectacular $59 million in the U.S. — less than its budget. It got solid reviews, but aside from the requisite small band of cult fans, it was forgotten.
But then its director, Guillermo Del Toro, went ahead and made Pan’s Labyrinth, which did great business, was critically beloved, and walked away with a few Academy Awards. Suddenly the director of Hellboy was not just a genre director of stuff like Blade 2 and Mimic, but in fact a bona fide genius.
You want to do a sequel, you say? Here’s another $70 million, sir.
To be completely fair, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a usually fun and funny adventure, featuring a wisecracking antihero and a lot of neat effects. And the budget went mostly toward what Del Toro does best: very creative-looking creatures straight out of a mythological creature’s worst nightmare: large trolls, massive plant/vine/praying mantis monsters, an angel with eyes on its wings, and so, so, so many more.
Because of the obvious creativity seen in every frame of the film, it’s easy to over-praise Hellboy II. In reality, it’s pretty good. The characters are terrific, but the actual plot is not anything special. And this probably goes without saying, but people who aren’t sure what the word “fanboy” means, or who have never heard of Comic-Con, will have zero interest.
The premise: Hellboy (Ron Perlman), a demon summoned by Rasputin for the Nazis at the end of World War II, actually turns out to be a good guy and currently spends his days leading the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, a secret U.S. government agency. (Yeah, I know Rasputin was Russian. I’m just repeating what they tell me. See the first movie for details, although even if you haven’t, it’s surprisingly easy to follow Hellboy II.)
Hellboy’s sidekicks are girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), who can light herself on fire and fun stuff like that, and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), an aquatic-looking telepath. The Golden Army also introduces Johann Strauss as their boss, a psychic who is made of nothing but ectoplasm, which in the film is simply white mist. (He lives inside a containment suit and can miraculously still talk, in a heavy German accent no less, which is provided by Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane.)
While the first film dealt with the whole Nazis/Rasputin/evil experiments stuff, The Golden Army goes in a more fantastical direction: for centuries, there’s been a truce between the real world and the mythological world, but a white-faced dude named Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) thinks the mythological world has gotten a raw deal and wants
to break the truce. His plan is to awaken the Golden Army, which I guess would be really bad news for humans, but is thwarted by his good-hearted twin sister, Princess Nuala, who is so connected to her brother that they share wounds: when he slices her cheek with a knife, the cut appears on his cheek, too. (And yes, based on that device, you did
just figure out how the movie ends. For something so otherwise creative, it’s alarmingly predictable.)
Anyway, Hellboy and his crew get intertwined in this whole mess and do their best to stop it. Along the way are some really inspired scenes, like the visit to Troll Market, which aims for the same effect as Star Wars‘ Tatooine cantina scene, and a sequence in which Hellboy and Abe, both dealing with some relationship issues, get drunk together. There’s also a really stupid scene in which the team decides the best way to fight an onslaught of a hundred thousand tiny creatures dubbed Tooth Fairies is to…shoot them one by one.
If this all sounds like a blast to you, I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy Hellboy II. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Hellboy himself, as played by Perlman, is a very reliable source of all manner of quips and jokes. The mythology vs. real world story isn’t spectacular, but the makeup, art direction, and costume design all come close.
Movie Grade: B
The continuing adventures of Hellboy and his team.
Strange how this franchise suddenly became interesting once the director, Guillermo Del Toro, went off and made Pan’s Labyrinth…