Movie Review for Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

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Review #657 of 365
Movie Review of Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) [PG-13] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $11.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 11 July 2008
Time: 1:15 pm
DVD Release Date: 11 November 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: There is nothing.
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer

Soundtrack: Download now from Danny Elfman - Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth)
Written by: Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) story by Guillermo del Toro and Mike Mignola based on the comic book by Mike Mignola

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Ron Perlman (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale ) • Selma Blair (Feast of Love) • Doug Jones (F4: Rise of Silver Surfer) • John Alexander (Zathura) • James Dodd (Layer Cake ) • Seth MacFarlane ("American Dad") • Luke Goss (One Night with the King) • Anna Walton (Vampire Diary) • Jeffrey Tambor (Superhero Movie) • John Hurt (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)

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If the publicity surrounding Hellboy II: The Golden Army does nothing but get people to see writer / director Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece film, Pan's Labyrinth, then this moive's worth it, because, everyone should see Pan's Labyrinth instead. While Hellboy II represents a mishmash, uneven sequel to the first Hellboy film adapted from Mike Mignola's comic book, Pan's Labyrinth is an astonishing, haunting, brilliant Academy Award®-winning film. Likewise, if big-budget action films like Hellboy add money to the coffers allowing for del Toro's really great films, then bravo. Unfortunately, the previews for Hellboy II and del Toro's name, made it seem like it might stand a chance of joining Superman II or Star Trek II as sequels that rivaled their prequels rather than the convoluted and borderline incomprehensible film it turned out to be.

…a mishmash, uneven sequel…see Pan's Labyrinth instead…
Did you make the mistake and see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Or, honestly, the first Hellboy? In either case, you were probably filled with dread upon hearing of a sequel to Hellboy—thankfully, no sequel for The League has been mentioned in a long time. But, as for Hellboy, one would think that Guillermo del Toro would be quite up to getting this 'franchise' on track. His genius is obvious, it's probably just the source material that's problematic.

The first problem with Hellboy is the hero, Hellboy himself. He just isn't that likeable. Though Ron Perlman has worn his shorn-horn head and red make-up body suit for two films now and claims to enjoy the role, the resulting superhero just isn't very super. In fact, he's kind of painful to watch with his Peter Pan syndrome, temper tantrums, and wants-to-be-loved-anyway complex. This film makes things worse, though by adding a painful scene from of his demonhood where his adopted father, Professor Trevor Bruttenholm (John Hurt) tells him the story of the time when elves and man warred for the world and finally came to a truce when the Elven king agreed to employ a magical and mechanical Golden Army that tore through human towns killing everyone in their path. The little kid assigned to play the role looks like he had to be tortured into it. Plus, the 'enchanting' bedtime story turns out, of course, to be true. And a crown of gold now in three parts, forged to control the army of the undisputed ruler of the land, must be reunited in the present to resurrect the sleeping army and allow the long-exiled son of the Elven king, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) to reclaim the Elven power on earth. Huh? Well, if you have to make up that much mythology to even start your film, you're already in trouble. Unlike the incredible story of Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II, has no brilliant allegorical part to match up with. Instead, love interests run amok and they've added another idiotic character to the team, Johann Kraus (James Dodd / John Alexander)—an ectoplasmic being that survives in a retro-fitted diving suit brought in by Feds to order Hellboy around. This character is just stereotypically outlandish, and his arrival to the cast adds nothing but nuisance rather than nuance. The moronic role of Tom Manning, head of the secret government agency for which this odd collection of superfreaks works including: Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) the pyrokinetic and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) the Piscine is also way over the top. Were it not for Guillermo del Toro's wondrous and fantastical creatures and special effects, none of these characters would have mattered much for it is the context of the worlds into which he forces them with bizarre and imaginative creatures like the tooth fairies and earth elemental that brings what little zest there is in the film to life.

Hellboy II suffers the same problem that many action films of late have brought upon themselves, their stories aren't very good and follow too traditional of a road map:

• Villain rises to glory.
• Villain comes to the attention of superhero(es).
• Superhero(es) battle(s) villain.
• Villain slips out of grasp.
• Final battle ends with death of villain.

Wow, it's a formula! But, not for success. Unless it's paired with one of two other elements:

• A very compelling superhero or a very compelling supervillain, but the supervillain must not out perform the superheroes in the end

• Allegorical references to the socio-political landscape that represent a call to action.

Hellboy II follows the traditional roadmap to the letter, but it nearly could have risen above it were it not for it's failure of the two additional theorems.
• The superheroes are not compelling.
• However, it does have a very compelling supervillain in that of Prince Nuada. Luke Goss, in fact, delivers the most wicked and best performance in the film by far. He's absolutely brilliant. He's so terrific, you'll wish he were the superhero. He's got the tragic superhero quality to him, but with a twisted evil streak. He fails the film overall, though, by way out performing (not his fault) the superheroes (the writers' fault).
• As for an allegorical reference, the film seems somewhat to be suggesting that elements on earth might like to rise up above the humans' self-destructive path we're on, but it doesn't do a very good job of making this connection outright. Worse, the elements working to drive us back to harmony with our planet get destroyed. There's one particularly chilling and heart-breaking scene where Prince Nuada unleashes an earth elemental revealed to be (a) the last of his kind and (b) the giver and destroyer of life on earth.

Luke Goss…delivers the most wicked and best performance in the film…
This gigantic glowing green plant god, goes toe to toe with Hellboy who wrestles with is conscience as to whether or not to kill it. Eventually, he listens to his teammates and does the deed. The death of the earth elemental results in the showering of seeds and plant life all over the cityscape. You may have to watch this scene a dozen times or more to figure out what the message was. I still haven't quite figured it out. It's these mixed messages if not metaphors that leave a vacuous feeling in ones stomach upon exiting the theatre. What was the point? And the ending will leave you pondering that notion even further. Fortunately, next up for Guillermo del Toro will be Peter Jackson's The Hobbit.

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Other Projects Featuring Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Cast Members
Ron PerlmanSelma BlairDoug Jones
John AlexanderJames DoddSeth MacFarlane
Luke GossAnna WaltonJeffrey Tambor
John Hurt
Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro
CD Soundtrack
Original Comic Book
Video Games

Review-lite Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) [max of 150 words]
If you're anxious to see a brilliant performance by Luke Goss as one of the best and most courageous and heroic villains of all time, see Hellboy II: The Golden Army written and directed by Pan's Labyrinth Academy Award®-winner Guillermo del Toro. If not, then run, don't walk, to the video store and get a copy of Pan's Labryinth—a brilliant and breath-taking del Toro film that won't leave you scratching your head or wanting your money back at the end. Certainly, Mr. del Toro has populated Hellboy II with brilliant creatures—his signature—but the boring superheroes and story of mixed messages were not worth the price of admission.

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patrick said...

Hellboy is dependably fun; for sure that director has an amazing imagination, reminds me of his work in Pan's Labyrinth

Mbuckingham said...

Can't wait to see this film, I bet it's great! It'll come out in the UK soon :)