Sunday, March 7, 2010


2008 – Horror-Fantasy
Director: Guillermo del Torro
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Hurt
Rated PG-13: some violence and language

This film follows the events of Hellboy (2004) just a few months later. The film opens with an animated sequence that tells the story of an ancient truce between Mankind and the elder races that is about to be broken. Prince Nuada is collecting the three pieces of the crown that controls the Golden Army – ancient robotic solders that are virtually indestructible. The holder of the last piece is his twin sister, Princess Nuada, but before Prince Nuada can take it from her, she finds the protection of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. While this is going on, Hellboy is now sharing his quarters with Liz Sherman, but there is much turmoil between them. Hellboy vents his frustration through his work, which this time is stopping a giant plantlike creature from destroying much of downtown Manhattan. After his victory, Hellboy poses for photos and press interviews, much to the chagrin of his boss, Tom Manning, who, after the death of Hellboy’s father figure Professor Bruttenholm, has the difficult task of both heading the B.P.R.D and hiding the secret of Hellboy’s existence from the world. Meanwhile, while being hidden in the underground labyrinth of B.P.R.D. headquarters, Abe Sapien, the increasingly lonely aquatic empath, forms a friendship with the princess, which he is reluctant to share with anyone. Due to Hellboy’s continued disregard for authority, the U.S. Government sends a new agent to lead Hellboy and his agents. Johan Krauss is an ectoplasmic man, who wears a suit to contain his essence. He tries to bring structure to the search for the hidden Golden Army – which includes a trip to the Troll Market that is concealed beneath New York City – but eventually succumbs to Hellboy’s brutish, but effective style of investigation. Hellboy and his eclectic comrades soon catch up to Prince Nuada and a battle for the fate of all mankind commences!

Like the first film, 2004’s Hellboy, this second version of Mike Mignola’s comic book creation, as envisioned by director Guillermo del Torro, takes many liberties with the original characters. In the first film, these liberties were mainly used to establish the Hellboy mythology (Agent Moss as Hellboy’s “new” babysitter) and as a shortcut to humanizing Hellboy (the romantic relationship between Liz Sherman and Hellboy). In this new film, Del Torro seems to be more interested in the relationships (especially romantically) than in driving the somewhat complex plot along. The need to locate the Golden Army and keep the villain from securing the final piece of the crown, seems almost secondary to Hellboy’s need for social acceptance amongst humanity and his continual struggle to understand the problematical emotions of his girlfriend Liz. The need for a balance between character and plot is never more obvious than when Hellboy and Liz are fighting in one scene and then immediately fighting side-by-side in the streets of New York. For this freaky fantasy film fan, Hellboy: The Golden Army almost “jumps the shark” in the scene where Hellboy and Abe Sapien get drunk (Abe has fallen in love with the elf princess) and sing along to Barry Manilow’s “I Can’t Smile Without You”. Anyone who reads the Hellboy comics (like me) head was exploding during this scene! The film has so many new and interesting characters, that the defense of humanity against the onset of the Golden Army almost seems to get lost in the appearance of these mainly monstrous curiosities. When Hellboy is actually fighting these creatures, the film roars along at a break-neck pace! There are enough of these physical confrontations to keep the film from becoming too bogged down, but I wish that more time was spent on the battle between Hellboy and Prince Nuada, and a little less on the battle of the sexes. The visual aspect of Hellboy II: The Golden Army is so fantastic, that it is a shame we couldn't have focused more on these fantastic settings and the creatures that inhabit them, than on the angst of Hellboy’s relationship with Liz and the rest of humanity. Ultimately, it is the performances of the main actors that carry the film’s weaker emotional moments. When Del Torro’s finally commits to bringing both the character driven and plot-driven storylines to a more-or-less satisfying conclusion, we are rewarded with a more Hellboy-like finish. I am looking forward to the last Guillermo del Toro Hellboy film (in the distant future, as he is currently at work on a two-part Hobbit film), but I do hope he keeps his character's emotional neuroses sub-plots to a minimum.


  1. Enjoyed your review especially after seeing it recently myself.

    You make a great point about the many things in play in Hellboy and perhaps those various subtexts are a distraction to the plot. Granted, some would argue you need much of it for character development.

    Still, I agree, loved the fantasy settings. Some of the action was terrific. I've never read the comic, but it sounds like the musical number was a bit odd.

    I never felt strong on this film, but it was interesting in much the same way Hellboy was interesting.

    I would be up for a rousing third film to take Hellboy out Del Toro style with a Big Baby bang.

  2. Glad you read and enjoyed my review of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I have tried very hard not to compare the comics version and the film version of Hellboy too closely. They are similar, yet two distinctly different interpretations of the same character. I do prefer the comics version, but still enjoy the more humanistic element that del Toro brings to the fantastic creatures of Mignola’s world. For a third variation of the Hellboy character, I recommend the two animated features that were released direct-to-DVD in 2006 and 2007: Hellboy: Sword of Stones and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. The anime-influenced animation style suits the characters and settings well. If you liked the two live action films, these two animated features are well worth checking out.

  3. Excellent review! I agree that this film is very much more of Del Toro's than Mignola's and it shows in every frame. I think that some of the humor may have been a bit much but I still appreciated it. Have yet to see the animated films but I got 'em queued up on Netflix. I really am curious to see what they're like.

  4. Thanks for the kind words in regards to my review of Hellboy: The Golden Army.

    Guillermo del Toro is very much a visceral artist and seems far more interested in creating a mood with his scenes, than in putting elements of plot together to further the story. He is a good storyteller, but understanding his films requires a bit more work on the part of the viewer, because so much of his narrative construction is relayed via visuals.

    The major difference between Mignola and del Toro is that Mignola relates character vis-à-vis plot and del Toro conveys character through character interaction. I think both artists play to the strengths of their respective mediums well.

    If you are a fan of the Hellboy comics, you’ll love the animated films Hellboy: Sword of Stones and Hellboy: Blood and Iron! They play very much like the comics in motion. The voice work of Perlman, Blair and Jones from the live action films ties them into to cinema Hellboy world as well.