Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure and Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs.
Release Date: July 11th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Guillermo del Toro Actors: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hurt, Brian Steele, James Dodd
isually breathtaking, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is essentially director Guillermo del Toro’s take on a “Star Wars”-type space opera. Minus the space travel, Hellboy is Han Solo, full of wit and sarcasm, and longing for adventure and romance. And he’s replete with colorful sidekicks, devious enemies, and all sorts of reasons to travel from one mystical location to the next.
The filmmaker’s area of uniqueness is predominantly in the humor that surrounds and drives many of the story’s elements, which are generally set in considerably dark fantasy. But sadly, the protagonist’s design, which is purposeful to his origins, is perhaps the least creative aspect of the film.This second chapter adds more oddities and monstrosities than ever before, enthralling with practical creature effects where possible and stunning computer animation everywhere in between. But the Grand Guignol myths and treasure hunts still display many of the shortcomings from the first film; it’s a banquet of nonstop but random visual delights that lacks the attentive focus necessary for something memorable.
Legend tells of an unstoppable army of golden automatons that were used in the wars between the spiritual world and the humans. A truce was eventually struck that allowed mankind to frequent the cities, while the trolls, elves, fairies, and other mythical creatures could inhabit the forests. The golden army was locked away, to lie dormant for all time. But a crown was forged that controlled the mechanical army, and although split into three parts to ensure its safekeeping, it has become the target for nefarious masterminds.
Not content with his people hiding away from the humans, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) seeks out the fragments of the crown to regain control of the golden army. His intent is to destroy humankind so that the creatures of the occult can walk freely through the streets. But the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, led by the crimson demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman), isn’t about to let that happen. Joined by fellow BPRD agents, including the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abraham Sapien (Doug Jones), and protoplasmic wizard Johann Krauss (Seth McFarlane), the always cocky, wisecracking Hellboy is destined to throw a wrench into the schemes of Nuada. But will it be enough to save the very world that fears the likes of Hellboy?
Our rubicund protagonist is tormented with the idea of defending a civilization that will never understand him. As with most superheroes, the antagonists are oftentimes the humans that naturally fear the abnormal (or paranormal). To combat his inner conflictions, he dwells on cynicism and contempt for his superiors, who are unable to control his flaring temper. The humor in the film is the defining point for Hellboy’s blueprint; this amount of comedy is rarely seen in an alien-heavy superhero flick, let alone a comic book adaptation (although the BPRD is rapidly turning into the MIB). While most examples take great care to convey every science-fiction constituent as seriously as possible, the Hellboy franchise relishes in the ability to create awkward, wildly unrealistic, laugh-inducing situations.
There’s still too much posing for the camera from all of the main characters (the villains especially), but the introduction of dozens of new fantastical deviations drowns out the typical overdose of heroic photo stances. The Troll Market is del Toro’s Mos Eisley Cantina, serving to give audiences a glimpse at fresh creativity for background alien designs. Crafted almost entirely with practical effects, the swarm of humorously preternatural monsters could lead to infinite derivative storylines, if only Hellboy could acquire the same following as “Star Wars.” Too bad the chief antagonist (looking very much like something from 2002’s “The Time Machine”) is the most boring new character in the film.
The action is still great and the creativity is on hyperspeed, but the story couldn’t be less generic. Centuries-old evil awakening to battle Earth is not a new idea, though visually, del Toro still manages to make it august. Taking the easy way out on unsolvable predicaments, getting a bit thick on the romance, and always going for laughs or visuals over sensibility, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” puts forth a worthwhile effort, but can’t quite seem to heat things up enough to fulfill its potential.
– The Massie Twins