Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Director Guillermo Del Toro has now solidly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. His name is whispered in the same hushed tones as Tim Burton’s was in the early 1990s. His new film “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is endlessly imaginative, full of enough creative beasties, monstrous trolls, fleshy carnivorous fairies, giant monsters, gaseous entities, and killer robots to stimulate the mind, and tap into deep mythological centers of human endeavors. It is one of the more impressive-looking action blockbusters you will hope to see.
It’s a pity the film isn’t very good.
Yes, although the original “Hellboy” (2004) was a strong thriller that struck hard with its bracing originality, and managed to incorporate humor and a sort of fun sarcastic humanity into an action thriller about a demon from Hell (Ron Perlman) that fought other monsters under the employ of a supersecret government organization, “Hellboy II” skips past all the formalities, all the establishment, and all of the storytelling grace, and jumps much too quickly into the action. The action never stops, the exposition never ends, the incidents are never dwelled upon, and the pace doesn’t slow for an instant, even when a demon and a fishman are singing Barry Manilow together. The first “Hellboy” was silly, but seemed to partially acknowledge that it was silly, mostly thanks to the wonderful performance by Perlman in the title role. “Hellboy II” is three times as silly, and not nearly as open about it.
So an evil elf prince named Nuada (Luke Goss), who looks like Big Daddy Mars from “Ghosts of Mars,” is looking to reassemble three pieces of a mystical crown that will give the wearer power over the titular army, a collection of 4900 battle droids that can regenerate. Nuada wants the army to kill all humans and reclaim the Earth for all the trolls, ogres, pixies, and other fairytale folk that live secretly among us.
Luckily his twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton) escapes with the final crown piece into the arms of Hellboy’s underground government lair.
Hellboy is now sharing a living space with Liz (Selma Blair) his human torch squeeze from the first movie, and they are having lover’s quarrels. This is not as amusing as it sounds. Also on hand is Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) a psychic semi-fish, and Mr. Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) who runs the show. A little later, they are joined by a gaseous entity with a German accent (voiced by “Family Guy” creator and star Seth MacFarlane) who dwells in an inflatable robot suit. That guy Meyer from the first movie is only mentioned in passing.
The quest to find Nuada and keep the location of the hidden Golden Army from him leads our group of heroes into the Troll Market, a dank collection of passageways and shops populated by every kind of creature imaginable, and many that only Del Toro could have possibly imagined. It is a wondrous sequence, and easily the best passage in the film.
But then there’s a fight with a stories-high plant god, a sub-plot about Hellboy exposing himself in public for the first time (his height, red skin, tail, large stone hand, and shaved-down horns don’t really go over well), another sub-plot about Abe falling in love with princess Nuala (a name I last heard in “Eyes Wide Shut,” but many there’s something wrong with my brain that I can make that association), and a tension-free conflict between the heroes and their bosses. There’s a subplot about Liz- pregnancy. The Angel of Death (also Doug Jones) even shows up at ones point. If Death itself can show up in your movie, and the audience is still bored, something is wrong.
If Nuada has control of a stories-high plant god that can fling cars around like tennis balls, as well as a swarm of flesh-eating pixies, steel-fisted ogres, and God knows what else, why does he need an army of robots as well? Isn’t he well-equipped enough to take over the world already? And just what do all those big rotating gears we see in the film’s finale operate? They seem to exist only to grind up some of the characters.
Too much! It’s just too much. I didn’t feel assaulted, mind you by the film’s visuals; the special effects are really first-rate. I was just pummeled down by the overabundance of incident, and the witless presentation of the admittedly-not-very-interesting story.
The first “Hellboy,” and indeed any semi-decent summer blockbuster, will worl some kind of theme or purpose into themselves. The first “Hellboy” was about free will, and how even a demon can choose to do good. This next one has no such conflicts. It’s just about monsters doing things.
Really cool looking monsters, though.