Friday, 18 July 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Guillermo del Toro has directed well received genre movies and critically acclaimed films. His movie, El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth) not only received critical acclaim, but received six Oscar nominations. It won three. Mike Mignola worked on such comic book projects as Batman: A Death in the Family and Gotham by Gaslight. In 1994 he created the Hellboy series. Not only would Hellboy become a cult favourite, but would go onto win both Harvey and Eisner awards. Del Toro's 2004 movie Hellboy would change Hellboy from a cult character to a household name.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is not of the same quality as El laberinto del fauno. I do not think it is even as good as the first Hellboy movie, but it is nearly its equal. Del Toro has once more succeeded in giving us another very fine and very entertaining film.

In this go around Hellboy and his comrades at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence find themselves in the position of having to prevent all out war between mankind and the world of fairy tale creatures (fairies, trolls, and so on). It seems that there has been a truce between man and the fairy world for thousands of years, and now Prince Nuada of Bethmoora wishes to break the truce for total war on man.

As might be expected of a movie that centres on legendary creatures, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is filled with wonders. As might be expected, the fairy tale creatures of del Toro and Mignola are hardly the lovable sort found in the Shrek movies. In fact, with the exception of the elves (the ruling elite of the fairy tale creatures) such as Nuada and his twin sister Nuala (who more or less look human), most of the creatures are downright monstrous. As might be expected, Hellboy gets to battle another gigantic creature, in this case an Elemental or Forest God that rampages through part of New York. Of course, most of the creatures are closer to human size. Among these is Mr. Wink, an enormous troll who serves as Nuada's enforcer, and the many denizens of the Troll Market (del Toro's own homage to the cantina from Star Wars Chapter IV: a New Hope. By far my favourite creatures were perhaps the smallest. Tooth fairies are tiny, little more than the size of Tinkerbell. Unlike their namesake, however, tooth fairies are vicious little critters who are definitely not intent on leaving money in exchange for teeth... Not all of the unusual characters are from the fairy realm. Introduced in this film is another character from the comic books, Johann Krauss. Krauss is a disembodied ectoplasmic spirit who must wear a containment suit (complete with bubble helmet) in order to have a physical form. Krauss, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, is also one of the most entertaining characters in the film.

As might be expected, all of this entails a good deal of special effects. Fortunately, the special effects in Hellboy II: The Golden Army are in top form. Indeed, the Golden Army of the title is so convincing it is hard to believe they simply weren't built in some factory in Detroit.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army also has some truly great action scenes. Prince Nuada is absolutely deadly with the spear and sword, making him a challenge even for Hellboy. The battles with the various fairy tale creatures are well executed and often very original. The sequence with the tooth fairies must be seen to be believed.

As impressive as the special effects and action sequences are,
Hellboy II: The Golden Army may be at its best in its quieter moments. Ron Perlman and Selma Blair are in top form portraying Hellboy and Liz as their relationship has reached a crisis. Hellboy's resentment of Krauss (who is now his superior) makes for some amusing moments. Perhaps best of all is a scene between Hellboy and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), both lovelorn, getting drunk while listening to Barry Manilow.

While Hellboy II: The Golden Army is not quite as good as Hellboy, it is nearly its equal. It is a entertaining, fun film with strong characters, great dialogue, and some fantastic action sequences. And it is so filled with wonders, all made convincing through excellent special effects, that for two hours at least, viewers will believe in fairies.

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