Movie Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

07/31/2008

He's large. He's red. He has two stubs on his forehead where his horns used to be. He sports an overgrown, stone, right hand. He's the big-muscled baby boy of Satan who just happens to love Baby Ruth candy bars. He's a cigar-smoking, wise-cracking bastard, but he's just so darn loveable.

Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy, the 6-and-a-half foot tall, and nearly 300-pound, dark red colossus who, despite being a demon from another dimension, fights and kills demons for a living. He's the testosterone-pumped, cynical, grumpy bad-ass who'll pound his and our way to salvation.

But, why is he so cynical and grumpy? For starters, one of his main problems, which he had in the last movie, is the fact he has to live in the shadows. After a long day of kicking the butt of whatever type of monster that happens to attack, as he did in Cloverfield (2008) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006), he can't just go and have a beer with the fellows at the bar. No. He's on permanent house arrest, except to go out to get the criminals.

If you ever saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Hellboy is suffering from the same syndrome initially as Raphael. Strangely, Raphael's favorite color is red as well, and both he and Hellboy are freaks, themselves monsters. They have human attributes but not enough that they'd be able to blend-in at the beach.

They both beat-up the bad guys and super villains, and save the world on a daily basis, but they can never take credit for it. Not that that's why they do it, but like the X-Men, they'd appreciate being accepted somewhat into society and not be so shunned.

In Hellboy's case, this time around, there isn't a person on the street who hasn't seen, or read, the comic book by Mike Mignola. Hellboy's as famous as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness monster. On the occasion that Hellboy has to walk the city streets, people recognize him. He's like a celebrity. He's even mentioned on Jimmy Kimmel's show.

Jeffrey Tambor, who also returns as FBI head of operations Tom Manning, has given up on trying to keep Hellboy a secret. Hellboy's blatant disregard for discretion has made him instead a star. With the influx of YouTube videos, there's hardly anyone who hasn't heard of our big red monkey, a monkey because Hellboy does indeed have a tail.

Manning has to do something about Hellboy's cynical and grumpy nature, and his lack of respect of authority, which hasn't eased since in the last movie Hellboy was able to win over the girl of his dreams, Liz Sherman, a literal pyrokinetic firestarter, played by Selma Blair. She's just as tough and at times as testosterone-pumped as Hellboy. She knows how to wield a gun, but she certainly keeps Hellboy somewhat grounded.

Yet, it's this relationship that is the most problematic in the movie. Hellboy's loneliness and isolation, his inability to fit into society, were a perfect disposition. He was the consumate lonely hero. You know when they hook-up the superhero with a girlfriend, or a wife, which Liz in this flick very much behaves like, that the story's on its way down.

The most perfect story ever told about a lonely demon that does good by fighting other demons was Angel, the TV series on the defunct WB network. Angel looked human, unlike Hellboy, but he also had to live in the shadows, saving the day while trying to keep a low profile.

Yet, the creators of that show, Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, were able to maintain the appeal and integrity of their lonely hero by keeping him lonely for the most part. Angel had his love interest and his friends, and those limits were tested but never permanently crossed. Angel remained isolated in many ways, which always made him more intriguing, and more in-line with other superheroes. Of course, they always had very clever and intensely choreographed fight scenes, creative and terrifying creatures, and a comedic spirit that was ever pervasive, even in the really dark areas.

This film attempts that as well. It has intensely choreographed fight scenes, creative and terrifying creatures, and a comedic spirit that pervades. However, it's clear that writer-director Guillermo del Toro isn't as snappy or clever as he was with his Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, and the comfort of Hellboy's relationships makes it all rather boring. Nothing becomes really at stake.

The story here is less about Hellboy than in the previous. Most of the laughs don't come from Perlman, and the final battle is a supreme letdown, as Hellboy doesn't even deliver the final blow and an opportunity to really juice up the movie is wasted.

The special effects and art direction, as well as the musical score by Danny Elfman are all top notch. The opening is an inspired, Howdy Doody-style, or Punch Judy-looking, animated sequence. The titular Golden Army looks impressive, but they're not as tough as they seem.

A legend is impressed upon us that isn't so impressive. A Prince is exiled from his magical kingdom. His golden army is locked away. But, you know that they're all going to make a comeback and have a big fight at the end, one in which they'll lose.

Yet, there's one quirk. If you hurt or kill the Prince, you also hurt or kill his twin sister, the Princess, with whom Hellboy's best friend Abraham Sapien, the half-man, half-fish guy, has fallen in love. This quirk could have been played into a golden nugget, but del Toro doesn't exploit this fact for the cool drama that could have been pulled from it.

No. Instead it just becomes a lame surprise at the end to add an extra layer on the final fight scene, which ultimately is a yawner. It's a fight that didn't even have to happen, if certain characters, namely the Princess, had made better choices in the run-up. An even better fight could have brewed, but del Toro missed a golden opportunity.

Two Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 50 mins.

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