Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

In this summer of sequels including X-Files 2, Batman-The Dark Knight, The Mummy 3, and the new installments will attempt to up the ante on their predecessors. But bigger does not necessarily mean better (anyone remember the Ocean franchise or Pirates of the Caribbean?). However, for Guillermo Del Toro’s return to American cinema, he has created a film of more epic proportion that does in fact match the quality, if not surpass, the first Hellboy.

Hellboy and the rest of the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) are back. But along with marital troubles with the fiery Liz Sherman, Hellboy is struggling with keeping out of the limelight and remaining unknown to the public. After the exiled Prince Nuada of the elves starts a war between the creatures of the underworld and the humans, Hellboy and his team have no choice but to become declassified. A new agent, the ectoplasmic Johann Kraus, is brought in to lead the agents through proper protocol. Meanwhile, the usually focused Abe Sapien begins to wane in his duty when he finds and falls in love with the lovely twin of the elfish prince, Princess Nuala. She holds the key to unleashing the indestructible Golden Army that her brother plans on commanding, in his quest to destroy the human race. Once again, Hellboy’s loyalty will be questioned. Are the humans really worth saving if it means the genocide of his own kin?

All of the main actors return for the sequel: Ron Perlman as Hellboy, Selma Blair as Liz Sherman, Jeffrey Tambor as Agent Tom Manning, and Doug Jones now voicing and performing as Abe Sapien. Selma Blair’s character has gone through quite a number of changes. Not only is she able to control her pyrokinetic powers with much more ease, but she has also become pregnant. Problem is, Hellboy doesn’t know that he is going to be a father. Doug Jones, along with Brian Steele and John Alexander, are probably the most tolerant actors in the industry. They all play multiple creatures in the film, a task that usually requires sitting in makeup for up to seven hours and then shooting scenes in costumes that render them almost blind and deaf.

Joining the cast is Seth Macfarlane voicing Johann Kraus, who is portrayed on screen by James Dodd and John Alexander. Don’t expect Kraus to sound like any character from Family Guy or American Dad, Macfarlane’s other comedic roles. MacFarlane’s fluency in German and comedic timing creates the perfect German drill instructor to exasperate the Nazi-hating Hellboy. Also new are the two British actors that play both the royal elves. Luke Goss worked with Del Toro once before, as the evil Nomak in Blade II. Up and comer Anna Walton makes her U.S. debut as the twin, Princess Nuala.

Hellboy II has numerous influences from Del Toro’s success on Pan’s Labyrinth. The now Academy-award winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro is back to shoot the wonderful creatures created by Del Toro’s creative team. Unlike many of the CGI action flicks that have been monopolizing theatre screens, a majority of the over thirty monsters in this film are not computer generated. Many of them contain an actor within a complex suit, accompanied by mechanized body parts. This artistic choice provides monsters with a soul.

Despite the return of many of the same actors and crewmembers, Danny Elfman has replaced composer Marco Beltrami. Hellboy II is much more fanciful than its predecessor and therefore required a score to match the fairy-tale story being told. Though the strong guitar rock music is lost, Elfman’s score is able to heighten the tone of the epic saga Del Toro has created.

The film does tend to drag towards the middle and up to the climax. There are two love stories going on at once (Liz and Hellboy, Abe and Nuala). And though this does provide a hilarious karaoke moment between Hellboy and Abe, it takes away from the impending doom of Prince Nuada’s war. There is plenty of action in the film and much more comedy than in its predecessor. But to provide enough attention to the creatures and the immensely detailed world they inhabit, the film’s pacing is sacrificed.

For fans of the Mignola comic, it will quickly become apparent that this film relies much more on Del Toro’s vision, and does not stick with the Mignola universe adhered to so carefully in the previous installment. But there are references made to the comic and though the incarnation of Johann Krauss differs a bit in personality to his comic counterpart, Hellboy’s devil without a cause attitude is in full force.

Whether a fan of the comics or just of the first film, Hellboy II will not disappoint. It has more action, creatures, laughs, and romance than its 2004 incarnation. But don’t think of Hellboy II as your typical summer blockbuster, just as Hellboy isn’t your typical hero. Del Toro’s blend of Catholic imagery, humor, and unique beings, creates a film that provides images and moments only the monster lover could provide.

Ratings for Hellboy II: The Golden Army
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