The Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (movie) Review
If the paying audience is anything like the crowd that showed up for the Hellboy 2: The Golden Army preview I caught, Universal/Dark Horse have a hit on their hands. Warned I should show up a little earlier than normal, I turned up about an hour before the screening and barely got in. Worse, I was stuck behind a very unathletic fellow who spent as least 20 minutes trying to fit the very large backside of his equally unathletic ladyfriend into his average-sized palm. No matter what angle or tactic he tried, and trust me, he was exploring his options, nothing seemed to work. Occasionally, he’d switch tactics and suck on her neck. Suffice it to say, the line was far more frightening than any horror movie I’ve seen lately and I’m just now getting my appetite back.
As to Hellboy, this isn’t a film for the hoity-toity, this is one of them fun summer adventure flicks that occasionally gets slammed by fans of more serious fare. But if you like internal logic with your things blowing up, and strange looking creatures, this is a good flick for you.
This time around, the titular hero, his flame-spewing girlfriend, Liz, amphibious buddy Abe Sapien and new (to the film series, he’s been a staple of the comic for years) addition, ectoplasmic man Johann Krauss run into an evil elf prince bent on breaking a long forgotten (to humans) treaty between the elves and men to unleash a sort of magical doomsday machine.
Hellboy is in a similar vein to the modern “Mummy” franchise, in that it plays equal time for laughs as for action and has a romantic subtext. Hellboy, being a PG-13 creation, is for the big kids, not the family, and as such skews a little more bawdy and twisted. I can safely say The Golden Army has the greatest English-language sequence involving multiple 6-packs of Tecate (that’s a Mexican beer, if you’ve never heard of it) ever filmed. The sub-plot of bucking authority and the job-security-induced neurosis of Jeffrey Tambor is as amusing as all get out, too.
The creatures of Hellboy are also more out there than you’ll see in Mummy films. Director Guillermo Del Toro did a wonderful, but somewhat obscure, film called “Pan’s Labyrinth” in 2006, which really broke out as treasure chest of bizarre monsters. Hellboy 2 continues in that style with creatures in much more unusual shapes and textures than you’re used to seeing.
The strangest meta-textual thing about the film has to be the appearance of the lead villain, Prince Nuada. Elric of Melnibone was the protagonist of a classic series of fantasy novels by Michael Moorcock. He’s an albino prince of an elf-like race. All the elves in this movie are chalk-white with white hair. Long white hair. Nuada looks a great deal like Elric has been drawn on book covers and in comic books. In a sense, there are times when the film felt like Hellboy vs. Ninja Elric. If you’re into the old Moorcock books, this isn’t entirely a bad thing. (And since Del Toro is signed up for the Hobbit, you could wonder if there were any other books he’d like to adapt.)
As usual, Ron Perlman excels in a role he was born to play, as the arrested-development, beer-chugging, cigar-chomping, smart-ass-remarking demon-spawn who’s destined to destroy the world. There might not be a point to a Hellboy film without Perlman.
Doug Jones has a little more material to work with as his Abe Sapien character embarks on a fish out of water (deliberate and appropriate pun) romance with an exiled elfin princess.
Seth MacFarlane fans will take note he’s voicing the Johann character. He’s a little over the top, but gets away with it. (Then again, given my normal appreciation of MacFarlane, getting away with it is high praise.)
If there’s any complaint to be made, this film moves a bit too fast in some of the sequences and is a bit too in love with rapid camera angle shifts in the fight sequences, so you don’t always get to take in the wonderfully strange world the film traipses into at regular intervals. Do not sit too close to the screen for this one. You want to sit in the back and take it all in without having to pivot your head. Trust me on this one.
Now if you want to be overly serious about your films, you can look for a sub-text on defining the difference between men and monsters. You can look for a sub-text on sacrificing for family, too. These things are there, but that’s not really the point of the movie.
The point of Hellboy 2 is to have a good time as things get blown up real good against mythical backdrops, wisecracks are slung, and Tecate is consumed in mass quantities.
Believe it or not, the romantic sub-plots will probably let a fellow get away with using this as a date movie if the young lady in question has any inclination for adventure of special effects fare.
Click here for my 2004 interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, as the first film was about to come out.