Kevin's Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Hell Yeah!

July 10, 2008

Even though Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) have the complementary hot and hell dynamic going for them, I'm not sure anyone can pull off superhero bonding between a red-skinned, cat-loving demon and a snarky gal that can, literally, "get fired up." Not even Guillermo del Toro. Yet despite the prominence the gifted director gives the troubled storyline in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the film still manages to be a hot one. The follow-up to the 2004 original, Hellboy II is not an exercise in unconventional relationships (ala Wall-E) so much as it is a wonderful two-hour excursion into the mind and imagination of del Toro. Never have I so readily pushed aside plot as I have with Hellboy II, given the extraordinary scale and creative creatures. Unlike The Incredible Hulk or Iron Man before it (and The Dark Knight on the horizon), Hellboy II doesn't take itself very seriously and instead comes across as one of the most fun, pure genre experiences out there.

It's impressive that we're even talking about a sequel. In 2004, Sony just about broke even with the original Hellboy. Studios don't exactly foam at the mouth to follow lackluster performance like this. Enter Pan's Labyrinth in 2006. The award-winning film gave del Toro enough commercial clout to run with the $85 million sequel, bringing "Red" back to the big screen. And we can be grateful. Hellboy II immerses us in a dizzying array of monsters and imaginations that amount to some of del Toro's best work yet. The details are so overwhelming, in fact, at one point I completely lost track of where I was in both plot and scene.

Hellboy and his friend Abe prepare to take on some nasties in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.Hellboy II: The Golden Army Review

Granted, that could have been due to the plot being far less stimulating than del Toro's creatures. A good portion of Hellboy II follows the smoldering relationship of the cigar-chomping demon and the combustible Liz. This storyline wanders and tires, but given it's campy nature, it's pretty easy to laugh it off and just marvel at the rich world del Toro has brought to life. Helping to massage the corny moments is also some well-suited comedy, a trademark of the Hellboy experience. The central plot, however, is far more engrossing and truly where the director sets fire to his ideas.

Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is the elf prince of the "Sons of the Earth" who have long held a peaceful accord with the human race. Taking a cue from Magneto in the X-Men series (many similar inspirations are readily seen in Hellboy II), the Prince envisions a coming battle between the races and resents humans for ruling Earth while the elves and fellow creatures are relegated to the shadows of society. The truce between the races was defined ages ago when the elves fought back against the humans using the Golden Army, a mechanical force that devastatingly crushed the elves' opponents. Its power too great and its killing too callous, the army was retired and the device that controlled it, a golden crown, was broken into three pieces, two going to the elves and one to the humans. Prince Nuada seeks to collect the pieces and resurrect the Golden Army. Hellboy, accompanied by Liz, water-loving Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and a new "guy" Johann Kraus (he's actually a gaseous cloud contained in a suit, voiced by "Family Guy's" Seth MacFarlane), along with a full complement of human team members from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, stand in the Prince's way.

Prince Nuada confronts the King in a scene from Hellboy II: The Golden Army.Hellboy II: The Golden Army Review

Del Toro's spectrum of exotic creatures that appear throughout the battle for the crown is quite simply amazing -- nefarious "tooth fairies" that feed on bone and teeth, an iron-fisted leviathan named Mr. Wink, an unassuming green bean that transforms into the most pissed off beanstalk you've ever seen, pale-faced elves with wood-like complexions, and so much more. These characters aren't just fun to look at, their battles are rendered with surprising deftness and action, especially when it comes the highly acrobatic Goss as the hell-bent Prince. It's a wonder how the director accomplished it all for only $85 million (fairly conservative for Hollywood). I guess del Toro's response is pretty telling: "[Hellboy II] was hard as fuck."

You can't go into Hellboy II wanting a deep or particularly dramatic experience. Even though the film leverages del Toro's work on Pan's Labyrinth (the film's tagline reads: "From the visionary director of…"), Hellboy II steers far away from a particularly compelling story, instead presenting an imaginative visual narrative that epitomizes the director's fun, freaky genius for monsters. You can't exactly expect Shakespeare from the creatures that go bump in the night.

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Thanks for the review. I was mixed about the first film - dug it a bit while at others times I was a bit bored - but I'll catch it tomorrow for sure. Air conditioned theater beats 90 degree heat anyway.

Joseph Kastner on Jul 11, 2008


Personally I loved the first Hellboy. The visual style of Guillermo del Toro films, the creatures and characters are just awesome. Cannot wait to see Hellboy II. The latest promo commercials with Hellboy are hilarious. lol

John on Jul 11, 2008


I just saw the flick at the midnight screening and I loved it. Everyone should go see it!!

Spider on Jul 11, 2008


You guys really liked it that much? I'm a huge fan of the first Hellboy but just couldn't get into this... Thought it was a let down. Sloppy directing, bad script, just solid acting - that's it... Oh well...

Alex Billington on Jul 11, 2008


There were a couple things I disliked about the movie (like the "silly" humor in it), but overall it was pretty cool. Not sure yet if I like it more than the first movie. ...except the surround sound cutting out right before the fight vs. the golden army at the end of the movie... God, that sucked...totally took me (and everyone else in the theater based on their reaction) out of the movie. Had it kept up (it went on and off until half way through the final battle.) I would've demanded a refund. Hell, I might have to go see it again just so I can experience the end as it was intended, I don't want to have to pay for something like that though. Regardless, this movie will be added to my DVD collection.

JeepFu on Jul 11, 2008


I agree with this review Kevin. The plot was just enough to showcase all the kooky characters. The opening sequence was a hoot. So much spectacle for a solid 2 hours. I'll tell you this: the plot was good enough and coherent enough and I sure as hell liked it better, way better than Hancock!! Perhaps, some fans and some casual viewers might enjoy this movie on their second viewing.

Pickle on Jul 11, 2008


Del Torro dropping F-bombs is enough for me to see it! Nice...

C-Young on Jul 11, 2008


A letdown Alex? Are you serious? Were you even paying attention to the flick or did you have a few Tecate beers before watching this? The plot was great with the human world and fairy/troll world at odds with each other. Yes, the direction was hella good with del Toro bringing his A-game! Ron Perlman still rocks in the role he was born to play. Selma Blair is flaming hot (both figuratively and literally) in this sequel. Abe Sapien--the multi-talented and Johann Krauss was a great addition to their team. This flick gave everyone multi-dimensions to their personas. There was so much to look at and it's amazing how far Guillermo del Toro's vision goes. I will not spoil anything at all, but a few scenes-the troll world, the fight choreography and especially those involving the six pack of Tecate beers were truly classic. Very original indeed. Flicks like this one are what the summer is all about: sheer escapism and spectacle with brains and heart.

Spider on Jul 11, 2008


I loved it for the most part. There were a few "off" parts, but that didn't slow the movie down at all. It is visually stunning and the characters are very well rounded. The goofiness of some of the scenes is such a relief to see during this time of melodramatic superhero flicks. Hancock wishes it was this movie. It did not take itself seriously at all and I'm glad of that. I can't wait to watch it again.

not yo mommas cat on Jul 11, 2008


Haven't seen it yet. But thought you guys should know, I was reading the Chicago Sun-Times at work on my lunch break & Ebert gave it 3 & half out of four stars...

jason_md2020 on Jul 11, 2008


Abe Sapien : Behind this door, a dark entity- Evil, ancient and hungry. Hellboy: Oh, well. Let me go in and say hi.

vic on Jul 11, 2008


Great review and i agree with you 100 percent, it lacked some solid story but made up in some great summer fun, i enjoyed Hellboy II The Golden Army very much.

Curits on Jul 12, 2008


is it necessary to have seen the first hellboy to watch the 2nd. do they tie in at all?

BRBomber on Jul 13, 2008


Those jumping into Hellboy II without seeing the first might miss a little backstory, but this film certainly stands on its own. Jump right in! 🙂

Jeff on Jul 15, 2008


"You can't go into Hellboy II wanting a deep or particularly dramatic experience." I wish I had read this review before I went to go see this earlier in the week. Because pardon me for getting my expectations up, but I kind of WAS wanting one of those deep or particularly dramatic experiences. I didn't get it. The film was definitely a delight to look at, but overall the film came up a bit short.

kevjohn on Jul 18, 2008


I thought this movie sucked. Period.

Andy Adair on Jul 26, 2008


I thought it was cool and worthy enough to stand beside the first but as for me the only "silly" parts were with off music that didn't fit. But overall a good sequel but at the same level as the first still needing a few more hellboy lines like from the first "No piggyback!" or "Open Wide!" stuff like that. Good do without a few curse words, thats all. 8/10.

Kroe on Feb 16, 2009

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