July 11, 2008
On a scale of 1 to 10, my desire to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army went from zero a few months ago, to five in the last few weeks, to seven in the last few days, and, finally, to eight as I was taking my seat. I haven't seen the first Hellboy, you see, but the right people had been championing it as the right mix of fantasy, action, and comedy.
Based on the sequel I would say they're, well, absolutely right, especially about that last bit. In fact I don't know of a film in this "genre" that has been this funny since Men In Black - which it turns out actually wasn't that funny, as much as TBS insists it was. As the title character, Ron Perlman (work much, dude?) is hilarious, and his sidekick Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, who is on thin ice here having been in two of my top 5 worst movies ever) has all the polite charm of an aquatic C-3PO.
I'm making Hellboy II sound like a comedy, which, while true, can distract from the other highly impressive aspect of this film: the stunning visual effects and production design, thanks to director Guillermo Del Toro, master of the underworld. Although I was a little disappointed to see such obvious similarities to the sets and characters of his Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro has to be considered a leading visionary in producing terrestrial creatures.
Increasingly, his attachment to direct the upcoming Hobbit movies is sounding more and more enticing. Seeing these creatures in action is an even more amazing spectacle, and the killer beanstalk scene halfway through Hellboy II puts to shame every similar moment in Cloverfield, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk.
Unfortunately, it's after that scene that Hellboy II starts to lose momentum, turning into a somewhat predictable race against time/climactic battle (don't forget the movie's subtitle). We can enjoy the effects along the way, but we also start to notice that we're just not having as much fun anymore, or at least not as many laughs. I can't go too far in tackling the plot as I'm ignorant of both the original film and comic book, but suffice it to say, I'll mostly be looking forward to Hellboy III for its visual wonders.
Even so, I somehow ended up enjoying this one more than any of the other superhero movies of the summer so far. Whaddya got, Batman?