Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Having declared war on all humanity, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) kills his father in order to acquire an ancient artefact capable controlling the dreaded Golden Army. As Nuada makes his presence on the surface felt with an auction-room massacre, B.P.R.D. is sent to investigate under the leadership of Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). When Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) are attacked by a swarm of carnivorous tooth fairies, the protective blast from Liz’s pyrokinesis blows Red into the street, making B.P.R.D.’s existence known to the public. Under new management, that of ectoplasmic medium Johann Strauss (Seth MacFarlane), Hellboy attempts to stop Nuala before he can unleash his indestructible army on the world.

After the bold but flawed opening instalment saw Hellboy’s B.P.R.P. face off against a wizard, an undead surgery-addict and an interdimensional colossus, Guillermo del Toro (armed with Mike Mignola’s sterling source material) has changed tack with a story about vengeful fairytale creatures. Unlike the tonal and casting shift between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, however, this feels very much like part of the same universe. Having honed his craft to celebrated effect in Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro brings everything he has learnt to the Hellboy universe, producing in the process what I believe to be the best comic-book movie ever made.

With a group of super-powered heroes that make the X-Men look well-adjusted and normal, del Toro rightfully leaves his plot in the hands of his characters. Instead of clunky instances of exposition, the script expertly ties all relevant information into a gag, a set piece or a character beat, so that the pace never need relent in order to let audiences catch up. As such, Hellboy II: The Golden Army positively flies by, maintaining a light, witty and irreverent tone as the narrative hurtles towards its resolution. Perlman, as before, is absolutely perfect as Hellboy, carrying the movie on his enormous red shoulders with an endearing effortless that has enormous appeal.

While Blair and Jones return as the fire-starting Liz Sherman and amphibian telekinetic Abe Sapien (who Jones now voices, as well as acts), it is bumbling beaurocrat Tom Manning and newcomer Johann Krauss that come closest to stealing the show. Tambor is brilliantly sympathetic as an agent just trying to do his job, flinching as his efforts are undermined at every turn. Krauss, meanwhile, chews scenery as the straight-laced, “open-faced” know-it-all who proves more than a physical (as well as intellectual) match for Hellboy. It’s geniunely refreshing to watch a superhero movie – any movie – in which the characters are so vibrantly drawn, well-observed and lovingly developed. If, by comparison, Goss and onscreen sister Anna Walton fail to make as big an impression, it is only because the competition is so uniformly strong.

In addition to its clever – occasionally hilarious – script and compelling characters, Hellboy II also benefits from del Toro’s directorial prowess, attention to detail and unparalleled set design. A locker-room skirmish between Hellboy and Krauss is milked for a truly staggering number of laughs; a musical sequence whereby Red and Blue share a drunken rendition of Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You boasts more personality than you’ll find in most superhero vehicles; and a mid-movie excursion to the troll market shows off the most impressive set design this side of the writer-director’s last masterpiece. If del Toro stumbles at all it is in the film’s climactic battle, but even then the stunt work, acting and dialogue is every bit as impressive as the special effects.

Whether you most prize spectacle, smarts or spirit from your favourite comic-book movies, Hellboy II: The Golden Army has all three in spades. This is simply a beautifully made, wittily scripted and charmingly acted piece of cinema – courtesy of an irrefutable master at work. With the stars stubbornly failing to align with regards to a sequel, this is a fitting – if unfairly premature – conclusion to one of the most under-appreciated franchises of recent years.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

  1. Pingback: June 2012 – A lady does not place her weapon on the table « popcornaddict

  2. Pingback: FILM NEWS: Never Say Never When It Comes To Anung Un Rama « popcornaddict

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