11 July 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

One could spend hours poring over the wondrous sights, the monstrous creations of writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The Troll Market scene alone secures the film a place in movie history. Not since Luke Skywalker walked into the cantina in Star Wars has such unbridled imagination flowed from the screen.

It is here in the Troll Market, amid monsters of all shapes and sizes, that our hero, the red-skinned, cigar-smoking, kitten-loving demon called Hellboy (Ron Perlman), at last feels at home. For years, he and his sidekicks — his incendiary girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and the aquatic empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) — have been dutiful servants of the U.S. government’s Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, occasionally venturing out to save the day, then going back into hiding, before the public gets wise to their existence.

Hellboy just wants to live like everyone else. But when he finally gets the attention he craves, people stare at him. They taunt and throw things at him.

At the Troll Market, no one gives him a second look. It’s a place where he could belong, and the elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) tempts him with that thought.

Nuada is not unjustified in his anger, his desire to wage war on the humans, who he blames for the eradication of not only his own people but all magical creatures. To that end, Nuada defies his father, (Roy Dotrice) and twin sister (Anna Walton), who long ago agreed to a truce with the humans, and seeks to awaken the ancient Golden Army.

Beneath the FX, which, whenever possible, were done with actors in makeup and prosthetics rather than CGI, and beyond the creatively staged and expertly paced action scenes, Hellboy II has a vibrant heart and soul. It’s filled with warmth, humor and moral complexity. There are not one, but two romantic subplots, and a scene in which Hellboy and Abe bond over a few cold ones (and end up singing a duet!) is pure delight. It boasts pitch-perfect performances from underappreciated character actors like Perlman, Jones (who gets to provide Abe's voice this time; David Hyde Pierce did the duties the first time out) and Jeffrey Tambor.

But del Toro is the star, his creative juices rising to unprecedented levels. Spiritually, Hellboy II is as much a sequel to del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) as it is to his first Hellboy feature (2004).

I left the theater nearly delirious from what I had just experienced—and I can’t wait to take it all in again.


(Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language. 110 minutes.)

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