You know, when I first watched this movie I was disappointed. But seeing it again last night after a couple years made me wonder what the hell I'd complained about. I think that as a huge fan of the first Hellboy movie, I was too busy noticing what was different about Hellboy II: The Golden Army to notice what was awesome about it. Which is: everything.
Cigar-chomping, beer-swigging, weight-lifting Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Satan's son brought to Earth in childhood and raised by humans, is a blue-collar supernatural exterminator for the government. Hellboy and a couple of other "freaks"--Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), a scholarly aquatic telepath; and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a moody telekinetic and the object of Hellboy's adoration--fight demons, trolls, gods, whatever the supernatural world throws at Earth in between showings of Dumb and Dumber.
In Golden Army a kingdom of elves with an indestructible army of golden robots shows up to destroy humanity just in time for Hellboy's unit to get a new leader, which confuses everyone; for Hellboy and Liz to have relationship trouble, which puts Hellboy way off his game (in one scene he goes to fight a villain and falls over drunk before he can throw a punch); for Liz to get pregnant, leaving her shaken; and for Abe to fall in love for the first time, which means his powerful intelligence is more or less...not. Add in good ol' human prejudice against the odd-looking freaks and copious amounts of alcohol, and Hellboy might get himself killed before the elven army arrives.
Hellboy II has many long action scenes with big guns, special effects, martial arts...all the visual treats. But like Hellboy, Hellboy II is great because director Guillermo Del Toro understands great movies are made by great characters. It's impossible not to love Hellboy, temperamental wiseass that he is, or Abe, who is such a shy sweetheart. Liz divides people because she can be bitchy and depressed, but I love that she's not the cute, spunky, dull love interest of most action/superhero movies. The three personalities bounce off each other beautifully.
The villain too: Nuada, a warrior determined to save his people (elves), even at the cost of ours (humans). With an incestuous obsession for his sister and a passion for survival that makes a mark on Hellboy before the end, I wish we'd seen more of him. He could drive his own movie, and the elven kingdom would be an awesome backdrop.
And with a mythological base for its story, which is Del Toro's specialty (think Pan's Labyrinth), there's a sense of wonder in the far-out creature-designs and sets that balances Hellboy's "seen it all" attitude.
Hellboy II is one of those rare movies that has everything. It's dramatic and hilarious, romantic and realistic, action-heavy and character-based. I have no idea how Del Toro manages to pull off such great movies. I just hope he doesn't stop.
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