Title: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Directed by Guillermo del Toro; Written by Guillermo del Toro based on the comics by Mike Mignola; Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss and Anna Walton
This Friday, Hellboy II: The Golden Army hit theaters in the USA. I loved the first movie, and had been looking forward to this bad boy for months, and naturally braved the opening night lines to watch it. I am pleased to report that Hellboy II completely lived up to my expectations, and was a wonderful, eye popping extravaganza. I loved it.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army opens with a young, starry-eyed Hellboy with his father, Professor Bruttenholm, on Christmas eve. While Hellboy isn’t much of a looker in adult form, as a young pre-adolescent, he is Awkward–with the capital “A”. His father tells him to brush his teeth, and to get in bed, and in return he’ll tell his son a story. The normalcy and familiarity of the scene–young, anxious kid ready to see Santa and wanting attention and stories from their parents–contrasted with Hellboy’s…well, hellish appearance, is funny yet touching since we see the bond between he and his father, and we know his father’s unfortunate fate from the first film.
Professor Bruttenholm chooses to tell his son the story of the ancient battle between the fantastical world and humans, with the King of the Elves, King Balor, agreeing to the construction of a great Golden Army of 70 times 70 soldiers, who are indestructible (to which Hellboy asks his father, “What means industrible?”), controlled only by a crown wielded by a wearer with royal blood. After slaughtering many humans, however, King Balor’s heart grew heavy with guilt, and he ordered the Golden Army to be dismantled and stored away, and he separated the controlling crown into three parts–two to remain with the elves, and one to remain with mankind. The King’s son, Prince Nuada, however, despairs this decision, and exiles himself, vowing to return when his kind need him most.
The visuals of this storytelling are beautiful–the entire tale is illustrated with wooden puppets, reminiscent of classic Henson fantasy, like the epic The Dark Crystal. In true Guillermo del Toro style, ALL of the visuals and all of the many mythical creatures are not the usual CGI’d blandness, but are slinky, dark and evocative. Think Pan’s Labyrinth—del Toro’s version of Elves and Tooth Fairies are beautiful and grotesque.
Fast-forward to present time, and the BPRD is business as usual–Hellboy is terrorizing his boss and girlfriend Liz, Abe is trying to appease everyone. Meanwhile, Prince Nuada returns from his exile, and steals the human-held piece of the golden crown, taking out many humans while he’s at it. Nuada turns to his elderly father the King, and his twin sister, Princess Nuala, to complete the crown, and take control of the Golden Army. Hellboy and company must prevent the Golden Army from awakening, lest the world be destroyed.
I LOVED this movie. Everything about it worked–Ron Perlman is the perfect Hellboy, with his snide, smart mouthing and devil-may-care nonchalance. Doug Jones also reprises his role here as Abe Sapien (as well as playing the Chamberlain and Angel of Death), and again shows his marvelous work as a movement actor. Selma Blair’s Liz Sherman is much more life-like this time around, as she no longer is a meek zombified shell of a character; her interactions with Red are priceless. The additions of Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala are fascinating as well–Nuada’s role was played to perfection, casting the Elven Prince in almost a sympathetic light despite his desire to unleash the Golden Army on mankind. His powerful grace, the beautifully choreographed fighting scenes with his crazycool extendable spear, was spot on. Both he and his sister, Princess Nuala, looked like creepy dolls left in a bleach bath–and again, this is testament to director/writer del Toro’s understanding of artistic direction.
Similarly, the script holds the perfect blend of comedy, horror and action–del Toro knows what makes a blockbuster work, and Hellboy II is thus far my favorite superhero movie of the year…granted, this title is most likely extremely short lived with The Dark Knight‘s relase this weekend. I found this film to be better than the much lauded Iron Man–the same solid acting, but a better balance of action and much better pacing. There were some lines in Hellboy II (“I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor!”; the “Can’t Smile Without You” drinking scene; “Industrible my ass.”) that had me laughing with glee in the theater.
So, in short–this movie is awesome. Highly, highly recommended! This is a close second for my favorite movie of the summer (falling short only to the Pixar brilliance that is Wall-E).
Rating: 8 Excellent
Now, I eagerly await Thursday, and The Dark Knight!!!!