Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Back in April 2004, I walked into the theater to see Hellboy knowing next to nothing about the character . At that point, I had started seeing movies more and more rarely at the theater, so I’m not sure exactly why I saw Hellboy except I guess the marketing intrigued me–there were hints that the movie would have a Lovecraftian vibe. And from the moment I saw the pre-credit title card–a fictional quote from the equally fictional De Vermiis Mysteriis–I knew I’d found kindred spirits in Messrs Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) and director Guillermo Del Toro.

While I loved the movie, it wasn’t until a few months later I decided to track down one of the movie’s toys. Then I was really hooked. I started reading the comics, which offered a blend of everything I loved–science fiction, Lovecraftian horror, folklore and mythology, all centered around a hard-boiled hero who happened to be a monster.

My Hellboy fad/obsession lasted for about three years. It was only last year that my interest began to wane a bit. I think it was mostly natural; people tend to gain and lose interest in such things throughout their life (though a part of it was definitely due to a certain dissatisfaction with the direction the comics were taking).

And so I went to see Hellboy II this weekend without the immense anticipation I have for, say, The Dark Knight. I think this was a good thing; I wasn’t nearly as invested in the film, and therefore I was able to enjoy it more than I might have.

I don’t consider myself an official movie reviewer (unless someone wants to pay me to be…), but as someone who’s quite familiar with Hellboy and the work of Guillermo Del Toro, I’ll say Hellboy II is a great movie. It’s the best one I’ve seen so far this year, though Iron Man is pretty close behind and I haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet.

Hellboy II picks up right where the previous film left off, with Hellboy and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) in a relationship (albeit with a few issues). The B.P.R.D., run by Agent Manning (Jeffrey Tambor, whose Manning–an officious but sympathetic character in the first film–has been turned into a wimpy milquetoast this time around), is still a secret, something that’s been chafing Hellboy more and more. He yearns to bask in the public spotlight, naively unaware of how blinding it can be.

You big baby!

Into this situation comes Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), an elf (in the Old Norse sense of the word) who’s fed up with humanity’s mistreatment of the earth. With the help of an army of magical killer robots, he intends to Destroy All Humans™.

The plot isn’t as important as the two things Del Toro is best at: the sights and character development. When I say sights, I don’t mean just the special effects. Del Toro has a genius’s gift for creating incredible, beautiful images in film, even when the subject is ostensibly ugly (such as a troll posing as a bag lady, or a gigantic Lovecraftian plant-monster).

At times, Hellboy II feels a lot like an action-oriented version of a Harry Potter film, complete with trips to a “Troll Market” and ugly-but-lovable beasties. While there are some creatures that are entirely CGI, they are so infused with personality that you don’t even notice. This is particularly true of Wink, a hulking troll-like creature who plays Mugsy to Nuada’s Rocky.

And while the film is filled to bursting with the requisite steampunk-style gadgetry Del Toro loves (seriously, he could have made Wild Wild West or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen into good movies), the film’s heart is in its characters. I can guarantee you no other action-oriented summer blockbuster will take a ten-minute break to allow its main characters to mope around like lovesick dogs to the tunes of Barry Manilow. It’s these little glances at the daily life of the B.P.R.D. and its agents that makes Hellboy II so fun to watch; it makes me wish there were a weekly television series.

If I wasn’t quite as enthralled with Hellboy II as I expected to be, it’s simply because I’m not as taken with the character and mythos as I was a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful, fun film, and a culmination of everything Guillermo Del Toro has worked toward thus far. Next up for him is The Hobbit, which I’m sure will be great, but dammit, I want At the Mountains of Madness!

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Comments now closed (25)

  • to me, hellboy has no sequel. i do not recognize this drivel of a movie that was put out last friday. this should have been a straight to the $5 DVD bin at walmart, not to the big screen.

  • (highlight for spoilers)

    I'm 50/50. I like a few scenes and it was "entertaining" but I hated the <font color="white">superman returns"</font> twist this Hellboy movie had. <font color="white">Superman and Hellboy need to invest in some "protection". LOL Don't want to give it away, but I think I almost did.</font>

  • (Again, highlight for spoilers)

    <font color="white">Do you guys think superheroes should have "families"? I just think comic book characters shouldn't have families. Superheroes are fictional characters and I think they shouldn't have that part of reality associated with them. Sort of defeats the purpose of making the character an above average being. Families make them like not human, but a normal joe living a normal life. For example,wouldn't it be horrible if Batman had a wife and 10 children? "Hey Honey, going out on patrol. Tell Bruce Jr. not to take his Batbike out past a mile radius!"

    Just my opinion. Any thoughts?</font>

  • I loved it. LOVED it.

    How could people not like this movie? We've got well-rounded, believable characters, great action, a solid plot, a great sense of humor, and Seth MacFarlane!

    (And awesome toys! Seriously, this is my nomination for Wink as ToY. I've got a whole write up planned for Mezco's planned head replacement after I get home tonight.)

  • LOVED IT. I admit I'm occasionally given to overstatement, but I think "magnificent", when referring to the feat of world-building that is HBII, might actually be an understatement. Absolutely gorgeous, and a hell of a lot of fun. Reminded me of what it felt like to watch the first Star Wars, knowing that each of those creatures milling in the background was a unique character, made with specific intent, care, and so much geeky love. You don't even question it; you just believe.

  • I'll agree with RK that the Troll Market scene brought to mind the same feeling as the cantina scene in Star Wars. I thought that even while watching it.

  • While we're discussing movie references, did anyone else find Nuala a little reminiscent of gelflings from Dark Crystal?

  • Well damn it, now I know a major spoiler.

    I'd like to know why Plain Sliced hated it so much when it seems like a lot of people like it.

  • @Pete–RK just wrote the exact same thing to me.

    @Paul–For the record, that particular spoiler is revealed pretty early in the movie.

    But I'm going to edit Chris's comments to hide it–sorry about that, should have done so sooner.

  • Totally, Pete – she was definitely half-gelf. You know she had wings under her cape.

    Sidebar: As a kid, how much did I LOVE that female gelflings had wings, and how much (more) did that make me want to BE a gelfling? So I'm curious: were any male Dark Crystal fans irritated by this apparent bilogical iniquity as a kid? Or were you just like, well, DUH: only girl gelflings have wings.

    …I think way too much about this stuff. But at least I'm not making tributes to Styx songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YseTQOsbNgo

  • I can't wait to see it, but I may have to; we never get to the theater owing to our daughter being four and babysitters being expensive, but this looks to me to be everything good about summer blockbusters and nothing bad.

    Still and all, if I only get to see one more movie, it's gonna be Dark Knight.

  • Monte, don't you get the added benefit of seducing the babysitter? All the movies I watch on my computer indicate that is how it works…

    (sorry if that's out of line feel free to delete this comment, but I couldn't resist the joke)

  • "(sorry if that’s out of line feel free to delete this comment, but I couldn’t resist the joke)"

    It's only out of line 'cause it made me conscious of just how seldom I get laid.

    Ban him, Poe! Ban him for life!

  • (spoilers–highlight to read)

    <font color="white">for me, it sucked. it was not mike mignola’s hellboy. it was more del toro’s hellboy. it felt like a sci-fi movie with a lowe budget and everybody is just either standing around or on a plotless journey somewhere with minimal background or depth.

    at first, i thought i was watching men in black, with all the aliens in the MIB headquarters. even he ‘monsters’ loooked like aliens. then the troll market felt like i was watch the first star wars movie. i expected greedo to pop out any minute. that who scene in the troll market looking for the lone prince lead no where. it looked like a waste of production money.

    in the movie trailer, it looked as if the prince had some massive fairie army; it was just him and the thug-wannabe wink? there was no depth there. all the way to the end, the ninja-fairie seemed out of place in a ‘monsters and ghouls’ themed movie franchise.

    the whole movie seemed like filler for part three. the who preggers with twins smelled so much like the star wars prequels, even with the detah angel telling liz what’s coming up. or was the death angel reminding liz of HB1?

    (the preggers thing doesn't even fly. mignola who knows folklore and accult info, should know demons cannot reproduce, only possess. so liz preggs would almost be myer's doing, not hellboy. hmmm, interesting?)

    the whole michelle pfeiffer look alike/ ugly abe thing love thing was so off. it was so forced. for me, david hyde pierce is the voice of abe, the way kevin conroy is the definetive voice of batman. abe looked and acted better in part one. him and the FBI lead guy manning. jeffery tambor is a great actor, but here, he was reduced to being the butt of the jokes.

    the standout character was krauss. great stuff. but one character can’t carry the film. roger had a cameo ‘again.’ you know he’ll be in part 3. bet on it. i just hope del toro stops recycling old characters from pan’s labyrinth. enough with the fairies already.

    watching this dull movie, i thought, ‘i hope they make a toy out of …that one…and that one… and that one…” there are lots of potential toys like the definete army builder ‘golden army’ or the fairie guards or teenage hellboy or professor broom, for pete’s sake.

    i was so disappointed in the nonsense of every acion movie that the main actors don’t get killed. biggest example, the tooth faires off everybody human, don’t bother with abe or liz or HB. it really felt like i was watching a made for movie sci-channel flick. thumbs down.</font>

    (end spoilers)

  • I specifically didn't do anything to learn much about the movie, just like I did the first Hellboy, so I wouldn't know any spoilers save for what watching the occassional trailer would teach me about the film.

    So this was a blast to see. A definte contender for #1 Summer Movie this year… tied with Iron Man. Now I need to see Dark Knight on Friday to make a good judgement about that.

    Selma Blair and Princess Nuala, so sexy, rrrrrrrowl.

  • Rule #1 of going into a movie: NEVER go in with anything more than the most basic expectations. It's not a fanfic and it's not a game. You don't get to decide what goes on in it.

  • I really liked the movie, too!! The creatures were great. The fights were great. It was just a great, fun, enjoyable movie. The troll market … wow!!

    I left the theatre and went right to my closest Toys r Us… and bought a few figures.

    Guys,… check out Wink.!! He's amazing… and another head on the way.

    He's still in the package. Waiting for King Grayskull to show up from SDCC. I think there's going to be a "face-off"!!

    I'm working on a "sword & sorcery"- 7th Kingdom World… with Time Keepers, Scarabus, The Queen, Red Elephants and red mutants, Masters of the Universe figures, She-Ra… and Wink, who will fit right in …as will Prince Nuada,… and others.

    Great movie… check Wink!! Monte.

  • so in short, plain slice is off his nut.

    It's worth mentioning that Wink is a suit, not CGI as that paragraph seems to suggest…

  • @yo–He can't be entirely a suit, though. I'm assuming his face isn't. If it is, that is some pretty crazy animatronics.

  • Ah–it looks like the guy who wore the Wink suit, Brian Steele, may play the Gillman in the upcoming remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Awesome.

  • Dang, loved this movie, surprised sliced didn't, then again I haven't read all the comics yet, and didn't have those expectations going in. Johann and Wink are AWESOME toys and liz is much better than pictured. May still get the prince and will have to get a HB eventually for big baby.