In 2004, Guillermo Del Toro (Blade 2, Pan's Labyrinth) brought us Mike Mignola's devilishly entertaining creation, Hellboy. Starring Ron Perlman (Blade 2, Hellboy) as big red himself, the original movie dabbled in World War 2, the black arts, and even a bit of the Cthulhu mythos. Still, underneath all of that, there was a great action/fantasy superhero film that was vastly underrated. A passion project for Del Toro, he forged ahead to make the sequel: Hellboy 2 and the Golden Army.
This time around, Hellboy, along with his burning-hot leading lady Liz Sherman and his greenish-blue around the gills partner, Abe Sapien, are charged with the task of stopping Prince Nuada. Nuada, of an ancient race, wants to awaken the Golden Army, seventy times seventy mechanical soldiers that just happen to be indestructable, to destroy all of mankind.
For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge fanboy of Guillermo's work. Pan's Labyrinth was a beautiful take on fairy tales. His vision is so wonderful, in fact, that Peter Jackson asked Guillermo to direct not one, but both Hobbit movies. All I have to say is this: aside from Peter himself, Guillermo is the only director who has the power to pull this off.
Back on track, though, Guillermo has dazzled again with Hellboy 2. Much less a gothic action/horror and more of an action/fantasy, the new Hellboy does everything the original did and then some. The comedy (of which there is some fun-neee shit) and action aside, the design of this film is breath-taking. The Troll Market is (if I may borrow from many other reviewers', well, reviews*) like watching the cantina scene in the original Star Wars, but, in my opinion, way better. Using a mix of puppetry, animatronics, and CGI, Guillermo creates a wonderful little world that you can't possibly absorb in the short time you are there. Instead of throwing his creations front and center, these creatures are part of the backdrop and thus create a backdrop that rivals, and sometimes surpasses, the action in the foreground. The variety of visuals in this scene alone is astounding.
The action is fantastic. Fight sequences are well choreographed and engaging when they appear. The Golden Army is massive and beautiful in it's entirety.
Still, this isn't purely an action film. A little drama, anyone? There are a few scenes of bickering between Hellboy and Liz that help lighten the mood.
Plus, this time around, though, our resident fish-man, Abe (played amazingly in body and voice by Doug Jones), gets a bit more screen time. Not only is he kicking more ass but he's a bigger part of the plot as a whole. So Hellboy 2 not only entertains us with a somewhat rocky romance between HB and Liz, but is also paralleled by Abe's overwhelming attraction to the antagonists (good) twin sister. The scene towards the middle where Hellboy and Abe drown their sorrows over a few beers while listening to Barry Manilow had the audience rolling. The dialog is that good.
Even more laughs are added when Johann Kraus, the ethereal new leader, enters the film. His pissing contest with HB (in which HB is really the only one doing the pissing) is entertaining, but when they finally settle things... well, watch it and see.
So far we have outstanding visuals, fast-paced action, laughing so hard you might cry comedy, a bit of a sappy love story for the ladies... You want more?
How about a bit of reality? Hellboy, 6 and a half feet tall, bright red, muscled to high hell, pissy, trimmed down horns, and a whip like tail. Let's just say hero isn't the first thing that comes to mind when the public finally sees him. In a sad turn of events, HB ends up doubting his role as public protector when he is shunned after saving a baby from a (bad-ass) elemental. This film really works towards looking at all situations from all angles. Although Prince Nuada is the "villian," one can't help but feel like he's somewhat justified in his goals. After the public scorn, even Hellboy begins to wonder if the world is really worth all of his suffering. It's really hard to want to be the hero when all you get is scorn from those you save.
All-in-all, Guillermo Del Toro has once again outdone himself. He has created a movie that is potentially pre-apocalyptic in it's plot yet still finds the time to throw on a layer of cheese. Oh yes, there is cheese; you can tell that Hellboy 2 doesn't take itself seriously from time to time. Yet, at the end of the day, the hilarity is pushed aside for the final battle and the seriousness of the situations. Real characters (and character developement) and a fantastically realized world make Hellboy 2 one of the most entertaining movies I've seen this year. I can't wait for round 2 with the big red guy.
*Thanks to the guys over at AintItCool.com.