Sunday, July 13, 2008

Review: "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army"

When compared to superheroes like Superman or Batman, Hellboy, at first, seems to be lacking a certain slant of novelty that such powerful DC wonders have come to embody. This could be for many reasons, most notably, however, that "Hellboy" is not bred with a fantastic sense of setting. It takes place in a variety of locales, none so archetypal as Metropolis or Gotham City, and lacks that sort of color and ingenuity that most associate with comic books today.

BUT, that is not to say the "Hellboy" movies do not make up for their dubious settings with plenty of other fancy tricks. "Hellboy 2" is, well, excellent. I liked the original, but the sequel is better. The plot is stronger. The villains are scarier. The CGI has graduated from nominal to stupendous. This is all not to mention Ron Perlman, who, similar to Robert Downey Jr in "Iron Man," seems to have been born, quite specifically, to play the titular character. "Hellboy 2," much like its predecessor, is filled with one-liners and frantic reactions that, if acted by any other human being, would appear completely overdone. Perlman has created a demonic teddy bear--a beast from some Hell dimension that drinks, cusses, pities, reacts, and makes love just like a regular human. It's genius. I am trying to imagine what it would all be like had they cast Vin Diesel as Hellboy. No, I am trying NOT to imagine what it would all be like had they cast Vin Diesel as Hellboy.

"You can have any brew you long as it's a Corona." Blerg.

Anyway, the plot of "Hellboy 2" is somewhat elaborate, based off an ancient myth told to a very young Hellboy by father figure Broom. According to myth, there is a Golden Army locked away somewhere and that it's controlled by a mystical crown. This Golden Army is said to be indestructible, made of magic and fancy metals that would annihilate upon demand. A truce has been struck between the leaders of the two worlds, splitting the crown into three pieces: one for the humans, two for the creatures of the dark. This truce has apparently been going strong for a long time. Now, however (and without doubt), the truce has been foiled by creepy-face Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) who has set out to steal said crown pieces from the humans with plans to wipe them out completely via brawn of the Golden Army. He's already stolen one, from an auction, due mostly to the hefty appetites of...tooth fairies.

This, of course, is where Hellboy comes in. He, along with pyrokinetic Agent Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), and newcomer Johann Krauss (Seth MacFarlane) of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense are sent in to cut Nuada off at the pass. It's all very action packed. The special effects (especially the fight scenes between Hellboy and...anybody) are incredibly well done. Prince Nuada shows off the ninja skills that we saw in the original "Hellboy" through the mechanical creepiness of Kroenen. The monsters at the Troll Market (yes, the Troll Market) all but define the inventive genius of Guillermo del Toro. Oozy things. Tall ferocious things. It's almost like he's trained his mind specifically to break free from the humanoid rules of anatomy. There's even one moment, after Hellboy fights some giant, green, pod-headed mythical thinger, when all of that fancy CGI cracks wide open into a situation surprisingly whimsical. It's not anything I can explain to you here. It's something that, in the vein of Terry Gilliam's "The Brother's Bloom," does things with CGI that invoke a beautiful and childlike sense of fancy. This was my favorite part of the film.

And all of these things are central to the movie's success, I assure you; however, when all is said and done "Hellboy 2" is a love story. Liz Sherman is one of the more interesting female comic book characters I've stumbled upon, and Selma Blair does her a good deal of justice. Her chemistry with Perlman is sweet and surprisingly human. I love it when two actors bring this kind of chemistry to their roles. If I can relate to the relationship between a pyrokinetic FBI agent and a big, red mythical creature from a dimension far away, then I can believe anything. It's all very touching. There's even some Barry Manilow. Not what you'd expect from a superhero movie with the word 'Hell' in the title, is it?

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