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Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Saving the world is a hell of a job.

Directed by:

Guillermo del Toro

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

On DVD

Maybe it’s because he’s big and red, or maybe it’s because he’s kind of a mess. Whatever it is, though, I find myself strangely attracted to Hellboy. It seems there’s been a glut of superhero movies lately, everything from Iron Man (really good) to The Incredible Hulk (mediocre at best). For my money, though, Hellboy II captures the wonder and fantastic nature of a comic better than any of its current peers, blending humor, action, and effects into a big ol’ rollicking bit of pure good time.

Back in the days of Howdy Doody, young Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is told the tale of a brutal war between some elves, led by King Balor, and the human race. Lots of lives were lost on both sides, but when the King had finally had enough, he called a truce, giving the humans dominion over the cities and the magical creatures rule of the forests; he also broke the crown that allowed him to control an impressive band of mechanical soldiers dubbed The Golden Army into three parts, giving one part to the humans and keeping two. Fast-forward to the present day, and the King’s son, Prince Nuada, wants to wrest control back from the humans because … well … in his eyes, we’re not doing a very good job with it. Enter Hellboy, who, along with his beloved Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) and best friend Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), has to fight all kinds of things to save an ungrateful world while trying to find his place in it.

The plot sounds convoluted, but it’s really not—even if you’re new to the Hellboy mythology, it’s easy to jump right into the sequel and know where you stand. Characters here are actually given more complexity than in some current “dramas,” and ironically, some of that depth comes from humor, which is clever and rampant throughout. Perlman, Blair, and even Jones definitely bring the hero and the humanity, even when two of them are prostheticed and costumed and one of them bursts into flame every once in awhile. The real achievement in Hellboy II, though, is in the visual effects. Creatures and magic abound, and some of the most amazing creations are actual practical costumes and rigs, not CG. Not that CG is bad, but it’s refreshing to see the craft involved here, and it adds another level to the whole production. Because he can never get away from himself and the things that make him both hero and freak, Hellboy is the epitome of what makes a comic book memorable—in Hellboy II, Guillermo del Toro has captured the wonder and fantasy of the comic AND produced an entertaining film.

It's Got: Stunning effects, great action, characters to love.

It Needs: A little more clarity on a few points.

DVD Extras 2 Commentaries (One: del Toro/Two: Jeffrey Tambor, Selma Blair, and Luke Goss); “Troll Market Tour” featurettes, “Hellboy: In Service of the Demon” (a 19-part Making Of documentary); “The Director’s Notebook” Deleted Scenes; Galleries; Gag reel, Digital copy DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Hancock, Hellboy, The Dark Knight

Summary

Guillermo del Toro’s foray into the comic book world of Hellboy is an exciting, funny, and surprisingly touching sequel with some of the best visual effects I’ve seen.

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