Short version: Hellboy II: The Golden Army stretches beyond the first film in both creepiness and humor, making for kind of an odd mix that manages to work in the end.
Screen Rant reviews Hellboy II
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is great, but like the first one, I don’t think it’s for everyone. The first Hellboy only earned $100MM worldwide, which does not exactly classify it as a (pardon the pun) monster hit. That’s not to say it wasn’t great (it was), it’s just that the world of Hellboy is an odd combination of demons, humor, action and creepiness. Oh, and the hero is a demon.
Director Guillermo del Toro’s fingerprints are all over this, right from the start of the film. We actually meet Hellboy as a, well, boy – and this gives John Hurt a chance to cameo as the adopted father of Hellboy, despite his having died in the first film. Seeing our big red buddy as a cute little child with big buck teeth was a bit weird, although he was very cute and wide-eyed.
Adding to the weird feeling at the start of the film was an animated sequence that gave us a visual of the bedtime story that Hurt was telling Hellboy – although the story consisted of humans, elves and trolls, the humans were portrayed as featureless wooden dolls. It was very interesting visually, but more than a bit strange. The story basically sets up the premise of the film, in which there was a huge war between men and the elves. The Elves were losing and had the trolls build them a golden, mechanical army of “70 times 70″ soldiers – the soldiers obeyed whoever wore a golden crown and were emotionless killing machines.
Eventually the elf king feels remorse over all the death that has come by his orders and arranges a truce between the elves and mankind, which has held for many centuries. The prince of the elves was never satisfied with this and still lives today in shadow, awaiting the opportunity to once again destroy mankind. He has part of the crown, but it is in three pieces and he needs to acquire them all in order to re-animate the golden army.
When we are reintroduced to our intrepid heroes: Hellboy, Liz and Abe Sapien (this time voiced by Doug Jones, the actor behind the makeup) we see that things have progressed by big H and Liz as far as a romantic relationship, but things are not going well. Hellboy is stuck in his bachelor ways, and on top of that is desperate for their secret group to become public.
Meanwhile Prince Nuada (played with amazing physicality by Luke Goss) is readying plans to attack the surface world, since he’s none to happy about having to live below ground. He has a twin sister, Princess Nuala (played with an almost ethereal touch by Anna Walton) who feels and suffers whatever pain or injuries he does, and vice versa. She does not believe in what he has planned and escapes, of course to run into Hellboy and crew.
The film is visually stunning, which is what we’ve come to expect from Guillermo del Toro, and very well done. The characters are even more at home with each other than they were in the first film and I loved the introduction of Johan Krauss, the ectoplasmic entity contained within an airtight suit. I could have sworn he was being voiced by Jeremy Irons but it turns out it was actually Seth MacFarlane doing the voice work. He really delivered his lines perfectly and somehow made an incredibly pompous and anal retentive character likeable.
Everyone did a great job in the film, and I have to say – when it was funny, it was FUNNY. There were a couple of scenes were the audience (myself included) where laughing our heads off. One of them involved a love struck Abe Sapien trying to deal with this newfound emotion and Hellboy trying to relate to him, man to man (or would that be “demon to “fishman?”).
So that made the scenes that were dark and creepy stand out that much more in contrast. I wouldn’t recommend bringing the little ones to this as their are some mighty creepy looking creatures in the film, and one scene were a couple of agents are eaten alive by a bunch of little critters with lots of teeth.
Again, I don’t know how this will fly with general audiences – del Toro fans and comic book fans will no doubt eat this up, but for everyone else? I’ll be curious to see how it does over the next couple of weeks. The thing is that it was such a schizophrenic film: So wildly funny on one side but so dark and unsettling on the other. I think it might play better if the dark side had been reeled in more than a bit.
So while the sum of its parts isn’t perfect, the individual pieces were quite excellent. If you enjoyed the first film you’ll definitely enjoy this one – and if you like dark mixed with comedy, this might be for you as well. And bring a date since it’s got clingy and laugh out loud enjoyable moments as well. :-)