Rating: 4 Pulses
Ron Pearlman, Selma Blair, Seth McFarlane
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Of the myriad superheroes featured in films this summer, Hellboy is perhaps the hardest sell. This is unfortunate considering that Hellboy II: The Golden Army is also one the most imaginative films of the year.
Guillermo del Toro (writer/director) seems to have the same fatherly feelings for the series as John Hurt’s character does toward the little hellion himself. Following the surprise success of the lovely and disturbing Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II makes part one feel like the limited work of a director stifled beneath a studio’s thumb. Here thankfully, del Toro’s glorious imagination is given free reign.
The film begins with a flashback within a flashback. Hellboy, all of maybe 10, demands a bedtime story from his loving father. The story Professor Broom reads tells of an ancient time when trolls, elves and humans all lived together. Human greed, however, leads them to wage a war against the other races that is delightfully depicted by CGI wooden dolls fighting on a cardboard battlefield.
After a truce is made, the distrusting Elvin Prince Nauda (looking like the Dark Emperor of Scientology), vows to return from his exile to destroy the humans. Of course, he would’ve been better off returning before Hellboy grew up to be a big, red, cigar-smoking’, pimp-slappin’, fist of justice. Bad timing.
Ron Perlman owns the role again, giving the de-horned hero a blend of angst and world-weariness while still managing to be a badass.
I thought Hellboy was too emo the first go-round, but his female trouble in The Golden Army works because the movie never takes itself too seriously. There is one especially absurd and hilarious scene in which Hellboy and his amphibious C-3PO, Abe Sapien, have some Tecates and a sad sappy sing-along.
Though Hellboy is the star, the real treat of the film comes in many shapes and forms, from tiny tooth fairies (they eat teeth), to the generous helping of steampunkery, to the Troll Market ripped straight from the pages of “Neverwhere” and rivaling Star Wars’ cantina scene. There is a surplus of fascinating characters and imagery in this alternative to the common comic book picture.