Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)

(Image from IMP Awards)

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)

I remembered enjoying the first 'Hellboy', which is based on a relatively obscure comic, quite a bit back when it first came out, so it came as a bit of a surprise when, upon rewatching it in preparation for the sequel, I discovered that while it was still a good (but not great) film, it doesn't have much appeal on repeat viewings. And Guillermo del Toro's follow up, 'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army', seems to fall into the same category.

It starts off interestingly enough with an animated intro explaining the truce between the warring humans and the supernatural world, and of the unstoppable Golden Army that was hidden away at the end of the war. Cut to the present, and the BPRD (Burea for Paranormal Defense) - comprising demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman), fire starter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), aquatic Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), and plain 'ole human boss Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) - is having PR trouble thanks to Hellboy's grandstanding. These problems soon fade into the background when Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) decides that man has broken the truce and goes about trying to locate the Golden Army in order to wipe out mankind. Hellboy and the BPRD, joined by new leader Johann Krauss (James Dodd / Seth MacFarlane), engage in a race to get to the Army first and stop Nuada, and they encounter various mythical friends and foes along the way.

Despite being a tad cliched and predictable, del Toro's script makes the story fairly engaging. The biggest problem for me is the dialogue and character interactions, as well as the humour, which fails to inspire; this seems to be a problem with all of del Toro's English language efforts to be honest. Having said that, however, the best scene in the movie for me is one of the quieter moments where Hellboy and Abe get drunk, have a chat, and start singing!

Another problem I have with the film is the action, which is conceptually imaginative but in execution feels clunky and staged, and far too often I found myself unable to suspend disbelief. Where del Toro really excels is in the visual department and in imbuing his films with atmosphere - often menacing - and in making the world and creatures wholly believable. Scene after scene features supernatural creatures and awe inspiring locales (see the Troll Market scene) that are so fantastic and fully realized and that you can't help but be mesmerized. The movie really is nearly flawless in this department. The performances from Perlman and Jones as Hellboy and Abe are very good, but once again Selma Blair is a real drag as the dour Liz. Seth MacFarlane's voicing of Johann Krauss is excellent and very funny, and Luke Goss makes for a fairly sympathetic villain as Prince Nuada.

On the second time out del Toro once again delivers a good superhero movie that doesn't quite cross the threshold into 'great' territory, though it comes close on several occasion. The tone, look, and performances are spot on and just right for the material, but some of the writing and action scenes left me cold - I just don't think they're good enough. Worth watching for those who enjoyed the first one, but it won't convert any non believers!

(As an aside, I'm now a little concerned about del Toro's Hobbit adaptations, but at least Peter Jackson and his crew will be involved in the writing of those movies.)

No comments: