Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature Commentary with Guillermo Del Toro; Feature Commentary with cats members Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair and Luke Goss; Set Visits; Troll Market tour with Guillermo Del Toro; Ainco Epilogue Animated Comic; Deleted Scenes with optional commentary; Documentary – Hellboy: In Service Of The Demon; Production Workshop; Pre-Production Vault; Director’s Notebook; Gallery.
THE critical acclaim and adulation surrounding Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth should be enough to ensure that Hellboy 2: The Golden Army attracts an impressive legion of followers.
In many ways, this is the more crowd-pleasing experience, adhering as it does to certain blockbuster/comic book requirements. It’s not as good as Pan’s Labyrinth but it does provide a suitably jaw-dropping showcase for the director’s overflowing imagination.
The film picks up some time after the events of the original Hellboy outing, as our eponymous hero, or Big Red (Ron Perlman), is struggling to keep his existence a secret and maintain a loving relationship with his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair).
Matters become even more complicated, however, when a new boss, in the form of German mystic Johann Kraus (Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane), takes over at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, and a vengeful elf prince named Nuada (Luke Goss) decides to declare war on humanity by attempting to revive the fearful Golden Army.
For all its flaws, Hellboy 2 is so rich in detail that you’ll probably need at least two or three visits to properly take in all that del Toro is throwing at you. It’s a beautiful assault on the senses that engages the brain as well as tickling the funny bone.
Whereas the original had been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the villains, this one divides its time more evenly between friends and foe, ensuring that it has heart and soul to match the showy pyrotechnics.
Hence, Hellboy and his companions never get overshadowed by the set pieces or special effects – even though several of the sequences are dazzling.
Perlman is perfectly cast as Big Red – laidback, nonchalant and virtually indestructible but with a heart of gold. There are several moments that give him real humanity, such as a domestic dispute between himself and Liz (brilliantly played by Blair) or a drunken sing-along of love songs with best friend and crime-fighting companion Abe Sapien (Doug Jones).
Such insights only benefit the experience as a whole, especially once Goss’ [albeit one-dimensional] villain attempts to turn the screw by suggesting that Hellboy will always be an outcast to the humans, especially when they no longer need him. It’s a similay dynamic to the one employed in The Dark Knight – although it lacks the same kind of villainous presence as Nolan’s even darker masterpiece.
Still, del Toro seems more keen to have fun than go too deep, neatly balancing the emotional involvement with some exciting set pieces and some truly wondrous creations – now that he’s finally got a budget capable of coping with his imagination, he’s not going to waste the opportunity!
A particularly vicious set of rampaging tooth fairies serve as a nice, suitably skin-crawling starter, before the director serves up a main course of forest elementals, clockwork robots and an angel of death. An extended sequence inside a Troll Market offers the best collection of freaks since the original Star Wars bar-room scene.
Hellboy 2 does threaten to run out of steam a little before its big finish but even then keeps viewers engaged with its lavish visuals and Perlman’s laidback charm.
So, while it can’t quite match the head-spinning heights of the aforementioned Dark Knight, it’s another excellent addition to the comic book genre that manages to combine breathtaking spectacle with heart and ingenuity.
For del Toro it’s another sizeable triumph to add to an already impressive CV that leaves you keenly anticipating what he’ll do with The Hobbit movies.
Running time: 120mins
UK DVD Release: December 8, 2008