Eugene Weekly : Movies : 7.17.08


Hell’s Kitchen
Guillermo del Toro dishes up another pretty picture
by Molly Templeton

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY: Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro. Story by del Toro and Mike Mignola, based on the comics created by Mike Mignola. Music, Danny Elfman. Cinematography, Guillermo Navarro. Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor and Seth MacFarlane. Universal Pictures, 2008. PG-13. 110 minutes.

Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and her big red boyfriend (Ron Perlman) in Hellboy II: The Golden Army

It would be the demonic, horned, bright red superhero that seems the most human, wouldn’t it? We’ve got superpowered pretty people all over the place and a brooding multimillionare on the horizon, but sitting calmly in their midst is Tecate-guzzling, kitten-loving Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who’s neither tortured nor slick. He’s not selfless or suave, and his power is chiefly in one indestructible hand. He’s a little bit campy and a little bit sentimental. It’s a good mix.

If only the same could wholeheartedly be said of the enjoyable but under-awing Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Hellboy has a sulky, soft-hearted charm; his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) has a secret; his aquatic empath friend Abe (Doug Jones) has a crush; their team of supernatural crimefighters has a new leader, a gasbag named Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane); and naturally, the world faces a new threat. Long ago, magical creatures and humans fought. A truce was made, and a devilishly powerful mechanical army was locked underground. But humans have taken over too much of the world, and a certain elf prince, Nuada (Luke Goss), wants to wreak a little havoc.

These are not Peter Jackson’s elves, though Nuada’s twin sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), does have a habit of seeing what’s in people’s hearts. The elves are pasty-skinned, red-eyed and creepy; the tooth fairies are not nice; the stunning Troll Market, located under the Brooklyn Bridge, seems to have sprung into being when Guillermo del Toro’s imagination crashed into one of Holly Black’s urban faerie tales. The director of Pan’s Labyrinth has imposed his dashing vision more thoroughly on this sequel than on 2004’s Hellboy. Creatures walk about with cities on their shoulders or talking tumors on their chests. Eyes blink from unexpected places, beings look disconcertingly almost familiar and clockwork gears turn red and drive themselves. There is more to admire in the design of Hellboy II than in several dozen less carefully crafted films — and all the more so because there’s so much enthusiasm in the invention. You’ll never catch every denizen of the Troll Market, but you know del Toro perfected each creature’s every detail all the same.

But all the attention lavished on the imagery seems to have resulted in a slightly underconsidered story. Nuada and Nuala have a mental and physical bond — when it’s convenient. The prince is seeking an artifact his sister carries, except when he appears to forget about it. Abe falls hard for Nuala, which leads to one of the film’s least believable moments; enough, already, of the love-makes-you-do-the-wacky excuse, at least when “love” is “a couple of scenes together.” At least once, evil magical creatures seem to be held at bay by sheer force of filmmaker will, though other battles make up for this with nifty, trampoline-augmented fight sequences. And the knotty handful of plot threads includes the requisite superhero image problem: The world is scared of Hellboy! He looks different and weird! Is it possible such a strange creature can have saved the human world again? More interesting is the hinted-at question of whether the human world was really the one that ought to be saved. Hellboy, as Nuada points out, is as much a creature of the world below the sidewalk as the one above. But in Hellboy II, there isn’t time to ask many questions about where the big guy really belongs. Maybe next time, Red.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is now playing at Cinemark and VRC Stadium 15.


Comments are closed.