Hellboy 2

2008-09-19 16:30
What it's about:

An attack at an auction by a swarm of weird creatures alerts Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team of a new threat facing the world in the form of fallen elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss). He intends to raise his father’s mythical golden army of indestructible machines and rid the world of all humans so that magical creatures may once again be free. Hellboy is caught between his loyalty to his agency and his status as an outcast from human society, as he and his team try to thwart the prince. What we thought of it:

After the success of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Guillermo Del Toro was able to resurrect the Hellboy franchise despite the poor commercial performance of the first film. Co-written with Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola, Hellboy 2 outdoes the first movie in terms of spectacle and action sequences, but lacks some of the darkness that makes the character of Hellboy so compelling.

Starting off with the beautiful puppet style fairytale introduction to the origin of the golden army and the truce between elves and humans, the film goes straight for a lush fantasy vibe, rather than the Lovecraftian horror of the original. It’s not a bad thing though, as Del Toro has an artist’s eye and the costumes and creatures are stunning. Like Pan’s Labyrinth, there are so many beautiful scenes that flit by before you get a chance to absorb them, and several of the ornate characters only appear for seconds at a time.

This time around the story is far more character driven and the relationship between Hellboy and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) is given the spotlight. It’s an interesting angle to take, but I think this sort of thing works better in long running TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You’re just starting to become familiar with the characters by the end of the film and the issues explored come across as simplistic at best.

Abe (Doug Jones) also gets more screen time, as well as a romantic interest, and this adds a whole new dynamic to the team, making their interactions some of the best parts of the film, nicely balancing out the jaw dropping set pieces.

Once it starts, the action comes thick and fast and on a far grander scale than before. It isn’t bad, but with Iron Man (2008) and Dark Knight (2008) having arrived on these shores not too long ago, it doesn’t make the same impact as it would have after a total drought of superhero flicks. Luke Goss makes a decent, multilayered villain who manages to elicit sympathy for his cause. His acrobatic martial arts style leads to some great fight scenes, easily rivaling the cream of this season’s crop.

My only problem here, and it’s possibly a personal one, is that he is too much of an ambivalent character, and with his whole crusade for magical creatures, he is far more freedom fighter than terrorist. The film weaves this into the storyline, but with this new found existential bias, I found myself craving an indescribably evil villain.

Hellboy 2 is well made, and as expected, it delivers the goods with its own brand of humour and a leftfield take on the superhero genre. The character development was enjoyable, but it left me dying to see the next episode and find out what the team gets up to. I also preferred the evil Rasputin, clockwork Nazi and chaos gods of the original over the sequel’s misunderstood elves and magical creatures.

Ivan Sadler

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Hellboy and his team must save the world from elf prince Nuada, who wishes to wake an army of indestructible golden robots and seize control of the earth.

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