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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 07.10.08] movie review book fantasy comic

Year: 2008
Release date: July 11, 2008
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro/Mike Mignola
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6.8 out of 10

One of the perks of being a genre film enthusiast but not much of a comic book reader during this recent comic book cinema boom, is that I get to be exposed to amazing alternative properties like Mike Mignola's Hellboy in a large scale way. I know I'm in the minority when I say I was blown away when big red's first installment arrived in theaters back in 2004 but, for me anyway, the fact that this uber dark comic, with a cast of full on freaks, and a big red hero who is the son of the devil, could be given the big budget green light was a good sign that Hollywood hadn't lost its sense of adventure just yet. Plus I loved the fact that almost everything about Hellboy went against classic comic conventions. Instead of a clearly defined human antagonist we got giant Cthulhu-esqu space squids and crazy sword wielding Nazis with sand for blood. And whenever things got a little too serious, 'ol Red was always there with a sarcastic one liner to put it all in perspective; like "second date, no tongue!" or "mmmm... nachos."

So, when say I was excited as I stood in line at the press screening to see Hellboy II: The Golden Army you can just imagine how much of an understatement that is. Because if the trailers promised me anything it was that G del T was going to be giving me more of everything I loved about the first one. More freaks, more monsters, more magic, more humor, and more scale. But, by entering the screening with all the weight of my wildest summer blockbuster desires resting on one film, did I set the bar too high? Did my enjoyment of Hellboy the first only come from a complete lack of expectation to begin with?

But let's not dwell on disappointment. Let's just jump right into the good stuff first shall we? There are two things that work flawlessly in Hellboy 2, and that's; the amazing Ron Perlman as the big red cigar chomping softy, and the film's masterful visuals. Hellboy 2 is hands down the best looking fantasy film I've seen since Return of the King and proof enough that, under the watchful eye of Guillermo del Toro, The Hobbit will at least be amazing to look at.

Every single shot is a "wow" moment with a new amazing character creation to behold behind every cut. Also, the FX are thankfully a flawless marriage of both practical and digital techniques so even the most outlandish things look very real. I won't give it away but there's also a scene that will no doubt affect a whole new generation of scifi/fantasy fans in the same way the "cantina scene" from Star Wars did back in '77. No exaggeration.

As I said, Ron Perlman is fantastic, but so are the rest of the film's cast of freaky heroes. In fact they're so enjoyable to watch just hanging out, drinking beers, and singing duets together (you'll just have to see it folks) that it's very easy to forget the almost gratuitous "end of the world" plot that's going on somewhere in the background. And this is a big grievance I have with the movie. del Toro seems so happy just chillin' with these guys that he often looses the plot - literary. Some of the storytelling decisions are so senseless that you have no choice but to make yourself go along with them in order to have a good time. In the interest of keeping this a spoiler free review I won't get into them here, but suffice it to say I'm shocked at how many reviewers seem to prefer the story of Hellboy 2 over Hellboy 1. I just find it very strange.

Plus, Hellboy 2 often falls into the same slumps that affect most sequels. Mainly, it takes all the elements that worked from the first film and amps them up so high that the film starts to become somewhat of a parody of itself. For instance, the sardonic and well placed humor that worked so well in the first film seems to have been replaced with the ho-hum just-another-day-at-the-office humor of Men in Black. In fact there's a scene in the beginning that is so reminiscent of Men In Black it'll make your head spin.

It was also obvious that del Toro loved certain scenes from the first film so much that he decided to basically recreate them in Hellboy 2, which makes the film seem like a strange pantomime in places. Remember when Hellboy was taking on that monster in the subway station while at the same time saving that box of kittens. Well that scene's in this film too, only the kittens have been replace with a baby and the monster he's fighting is 20 times the size. What is it with filmmakers wanting to always go for these over-the-top, almost absurd, action sequences?

Ultimately though, Hellboy II: The Golden Army packs one hell of a five-fingered Mary. Despite it's storytelling lows, it's still visually arresting and clever enough to be one of the best films of the summer. I definitely liked it enough that I'm planning on seeing it again; If only to have my expectations in check.

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projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

Great review. Look forward to this, I loved the first one.

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