Sunday, 24 August 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Review, Trailer, and Interview with the Director, Guillermo del Toro

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Review

Hellboy II: The Golden Army continues the rich stream of superhero movies we’ve been enjoying recently. I’ve still not seen the first and know nothing of the character, but neither of those things stop this from being an immensely enjoyable action comedy outing.

The storyline is typical comic book / fantasy stuff – an ancient army is forever imprisoned, except of course this can be undone (very similar idea to The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, but far more slickly executed). Naturally, a powerful evil dude is about to attempt to bring this army back to life, rule the world, destroy mankind etc etc. To make things slightly more interesting he is of an ancient race that has a truce with humankind, who have forgotten of their existence. His twin sister holds the last piece of the seal he needs to get this army going, and she isn’t so keen on his plans. There is a plot twist involving the sister which I suspect everyone in the cinema worked out within a couple of minutes of her being onscreen. The baddie, Prince Nauda (Luke Goss – haven’t heard of him since he was in Bros!) is a pretty good baddy, snarling away nastily and looking very good in the fight-scenes, which are extremely slickly choreographed (Choreography by Guillermo Navarro). Unfortunately Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) is very much a traditional damsel in distress, meaning she looks worried and does absolutely nothing of value for 99% of the movie. There is one scene in particular where she knows exactly what needs to be done (when no-one else is) and is perfectly positioned to do it (at practically no risk to herself, even), but what does she do? Of course, what would one do in that situation but look agitated, stamp your feet a little and tell the nearest male character to do the job? Sheesh...

Fortunately the good guys have a strong female character. Liz Sherman (Selma Blair)gives as good as she gets despite being in a situation that would make it more understandable for her to take a back seat. After a slightly shaky start for her character’s involvement in the film, she makes a great woman in love with a big red bloke, and is certainly the sort of woman most men would want by their side in a disaster (well, besides the obvious – I mean, it’s Selma Blair...). The big red bloke here is the eponymous Hellboy, some sort of demon who decides to help humans instead of destroying them all, though their reaction at some points in the film makes him wonder if he should have taken the first option. Also on the side of the good guys (or at least the humans) are Abe Sapien (a fishman), played by Doug Jones, who with Ron Perlman as Hellboy shares one of the funniest duets the movie world has ever seen.

(This scene is preceded by one my favourite pieces of dialogue from the film:

Hellboy: You're in love. Have a beer.
Abe Sapien: Oh, my body's a temple.
Hellboy: Now it's an amusement park.

The new leader for the paranormal team is “Johann Klauss” (I bet most of the teenagers in the audience didn’t even realise it was a pun...), who is... odd. Also, he plays by the rulebook, which goes very against Hellboy’s way of doing things. The old leader, Tom Manning (played by Jeffrey Tambor) is very funny, constantly running around trying to prove how efficient and respected he is in the face of all evidence to the contrary. There are a few other characters of note, but no other cast performances that stood out to me.

Aside from that, all you really need to know is that it’s got a decent plot, there are some great action scenes, and a lot of funny moments. It doesn’t all gel quite well enough to be five stars (for me, anyway), but it is extremely enjoyable. The music score (Danny Elfman) is fantastic, very varied and a lot of fun; it really adds a lot to the film. Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) creates a very believable fantasy world here with lavish sets, some great special effects and great attention to detail.

Runtime: 2 hours exactly. Perhaps a little overlong, a couple of sections felt just a bit too slow.

It’s rated 12A (UK) PG-13 (US) for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language. It’s not particularly dark in tone, nothing like Dark Knight in tone, far more along the lines of the half-serious, half-comedy superhero extravaganza Iron Man. If you didn’t find the latter offensive, I doubt you’d have any problems with this one. The mix of action and comedy is more or less spot on – highly recommended (whether you’ve seen the first Hellboy movie or not).

See also: My Top Ten Superhero Movies

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Trailer

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Interview with the Director, Guillermo del Toro

Review originally posted at Epinions

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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