Hellboy 2: The Golden Army Review

From my review at Sight:

There will undoubtedly be more than a few concerned Christians who will dodge any film dealing with supernatural themes, especially one with , “hell” in the title. I’d suggest those people give Hellboy 2 a go however. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in this case, as there is much to recommend here.

A sequel to the first film from 2004, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army retains that film’s main cast including Ron Perlman as the titular hero, Selma Blair as pyrokinetic Liz Sherman and the dry wit of Jeffrey Tambor as their frustrated boss, Tom Manning. It is also directed by Hellboy’s helmer, Guillermo del Toro.

The most noticeable change is the absence of David Hyde Pierce’s (Niles from TV’s Frasier) voice for the amphibious agent Abe Sapien. Christian actor Doug Jones portays Abe (under all the make-up and prosthetics) as he did in the first film, and alos has the honour of voicing him. When Abe first speaks, that absence is noticeable but Jones is such a great actor, who also plays two other characters here, that it soon fades. Jones’ voice was also forgotten when he portrayed the Silver Surfer in last year’s Fanatstic Four sequel, to be replaced by Matrix actor Laurence Fishburne, so it’s about time he received his due. However Jones, along with Perlman and Blair did perform voice duties for the two fun Hellboy animated films, Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron. For those of you who are keeping track of useless trivia, here’s some more; Jones also worked with Del Toro on Pan’s Labyrinth, as did Perlman and Hellboy 2’s villain, Luke Goss in Blade 2.

Back to the story at hand. This sequel begins in Christmas, 1955 when an amusingly young Hellboy is told by his adoptive father, Professor Broom (John Hurt) about a battle long ago between humans and creatures of myth, which is effectively relayed to us via wooden puppets. King Balor had a multitude of goblins create a Golden Army for him, comprising of “70 times 70” clockwork warriors. Due to the devastation on both sides, however a truce was called and the crown that controlled this Golden Army was shared between the humans and elves. We cut to the present where, you guessed it, King Balor’s son, Prince Nuarda (Luke Goss) wants no part of this truce nonsense and reclaims the crown in order to raise the Golden Army once more.

Much has changed since the last time we saw Hellboy and crew. “Big Red” is now living with Liz Sherman in the B.P.R.D complex, (That’s the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, who the team work for) and as Abe finds out, Sherman is pregnant, which throws her relationship with Hellboy in even greater disarray. This superheroic romance, and the accidental public outing of the B.P.R.D operatives to the general populace provide the film with its numerous laughs. It is a funny film, certainly moreso than the first one, and the addition of new agent, Johann Krauss, basically a German ectoplasmic spirit in a containment suit helps. Voiced by Seth McFarlane his non-nonsense bureaucratic mindset is a great foil for the cigar loving slob Hellboy.
The characters mesh so well together and the cast seem like old friends all at ease with just being themselves. And it is simply luscious to look at. Del Toro is perhaps the most visionary director working today, (and because of such is currently making The Hobbit film, with executive producer Peter Jackson.) When the team visit the Troll Market, all manner of freaky monsters appear, reminscent of a hyped up version of the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars. The battles here are hectic, but not overly violent and the reliance on puppetry and old school visual trickery rather than elaborate CGI is a welcome bonus.

The film isn’t as epic as I thought it would be. Those expecting massive Lord of the Rings style battles will be disappointed, and the romantic scenes between Hellboy and Liz, and later with Abe and Nuada’s sister, Princess Nuala may be too much for some. However, I am a fan of this series. Different from the comics that inspired it, it may well be, but del Toro adores the source material and worked closely on this original story with creator Mike Mignola, bringing such a clear vision to this outing. The environmental message, the nature of love and sacrifice all mean that this film has more depth than its predecessor, but those themes don’t feel shoehorned. Yes, there is a lot of talking and perhaps not enough action, but with characters birthed from fantasy, there is also great realism in their interactions. No matter what we look like, or what we can do, this film subtly teaches us that there is always a greater need than ourselves, and that all differences are unimportant when trouble erupts.