Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In Super Hero Summer 2008 we have the sickly creative Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’, which is about as entertaining a movie you’re going to see this summer, though the suits at Universal didn’t do this movie any favors by releasing it this particular summer. I don’t know much about marketing, but I’m thinking releasing a movie the week before ‘The Dark Knight’ can’t be that good for a films chances at longevity. Since I chose to see ‘Hellboy’ the week after it was released I was not the least bit surprised that the 20 screen multiplex that I saw the film at had a single showing for this large budgeted action filled extravaganza, despite the fact it opened at number one in its first week. ‘The Dark Knight’ on the other hand was broadcasting on a whopping 14 screens. But then again the suits at Universal had the good sense to release ‘Mama Mia’ in the same week as ‘The Dark Knight’ knowing full well that those two movies are going after a completely different set of dollars and you can expect that musical based on the music of ABBA to more than likely out earn Hellboy considerably. Just random thoughts on the unfortunate fate of ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’ which was not only very entertaining but also cements Guillermo Del Toro as one the great visually creative minds of this generation.

As this film starts, we catch up with Red as a young boy on Christmas Eve in the mid 1950’s, pestering his adopted father Dr. Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) on Christmas Eve to read him a bedtime story. Eventually Dr. Burttenholm acquiesces and tells the young boy a tale about a time when the humans battled the creatures of the mythical realm, a battle that escalates with the king of this land commissioning the creation of a legion of unfeeling, unmerciful mechanical soldiers called The Golden Army. So distraught with the violence that his Army wreaked against mankind, the king struck up a truce with the humans, much to the disapproval of his son. Happy with what he thought was a fairy tale, little bitty Hellboy goes to be and waits for Santy Clause.

But not so fast my friend because in present time it looks like the Prince Nauda (Luke Goss) is quite real and he’s has grown most weary of humans. To control the Golden Army one needs three parts of a crown, one is worn by his father the King (Roy Dotrice), one is being held by humans, and the third is protected by his twin sister Princess Naula (Anna Walton). In a brutal revolt, the prince takes his fathers part of the crown to add to the part he has already stolen from some humans whom he has made very dead, now all he needs is the part protected by his sister who refuses to give it up, and has managed to stumble upon the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) for protection.

The secretive BPRD is lorded over by the near brain dead Agent Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) and consists of the cigar smoking Hellboy (Ron Perlman), his girl the combustible Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), the empathic fishman Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and a new addition in the German ectoplasmic genius Dr. Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane). There are issues with our members as Red and Liz are having their problems, Red has an intense desire to expose himself to the world, so to speak, Abe has fallen for the princess and Dr. Krauss is sick of Hellboy not following protocol, but all of these issues must be put to side, at least temporarily, because the Prince seriously hates humans and if he manages to resurrect this Golden Army, then that’s pretty much all she wrote.

With the possible exception of Tim Burton, you would be hard pressed to find a filmmaker as visually imaginative as Guillermo Del Toro, and his visual bag of tricks is in full display in ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’. The world that he has created for us to enter into and the characters that inhabit this world are vibrant, unique, full of life and filled with unique personalities. Perlman, Blair, Jones and Tambor are completely at home with these characters that they have revisited for this superior sequel, though watching the first ‘Hellboy’ isn’t necessary to enjoy this particular film. Another thing Del Toro is good at is making the best use of actor Luke Goss, because just as Goss was one of the best things as the villain in Del Toro’s ‘Blade 2’, He was equally as good, if not better due the deeper complexities of the character, in this film. As the virulent Prince Nauda Goss brings a menacing honor to the character, along with some spectacular athleticism, a lot of which I’m sure is stunt-man enabled, but I’m sure Goss had to pull of some of those moves off on his own.

Del Toro the storyteller probably isn’t quite as gifted as Del Toro the visual artist however. It’s not that the story as it is supplied is poor, it simply lacks the cleverness or wit that one would expect from it to adequately support the visuals. Considering the violent viciousness of a lot of the movie, there was a lot of humor, some which fell flat, and even more romantic melodrama, which seemed somewhat incongruent with what we were viewing and gives the feeling that screenwriter Del Toro, straddling the line between a dark fantasy, ala ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, or a lighter action adventure, which in my opinion keeps a very good movie from being a great one.

Very good ain’t bad though and ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’ delivers plenty of entertainment goodness for your hard earned summertime shekels. Instead of watching ‘The Dark Knight’ for the eighth time, by all means, check out ‘Hellboy’ for the first.

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