Hellboy II: The Golden Army

hellboy-ii-the-golden-army-poster (540x800)“Sit down! Proud, empty, hollow things that you are. Let this remind you why you once feared the dark.”

The Scoop: 12A 2008, directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Ron Perlman, Doug Jones and Luke Goss.

Tagline: Saving the world is a hell of a job.

Summary Capsule: The best damn demon hunter in the world (sorry, Buffy) has to contend with an uptight new boss, an indestructible army, and a hormonal girlfriend. Guess which one he’s dreading most?

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Drew’s Rating: Like what would happen if George Lucas and Barry Sonnenfeld had a baby. (And, ew.)

Drew’s Review: For a filmmaker, there’s only one way to guarantee yourself a sequel: make the first one profitable. Right or wrong, studios care about the bottom line, period. You can drop the biggest cinematic deuce ever committed to celluloid, but if people go see it in droves, rest assured you’ll be making Scary/Date/Epic/Disaster Movies until the end of time. Whereas if you create a masterpiece that makes Roger Ebert cry but that just breaks even, the studio will congratulate you heartily and let you know that your story has reached its logical conclusion. It’s scary but true – if Star Wars had tanked, there never would have been an Empire Strikes Back. Think about it.

But there are rare exceptions to that rule, which almost always boil down to two things: goodwill and respect for the director, and sheer force of will on the part of those trying to get the sequel made. Which brings us to Hellboy II and Guillermo del Toro, acclaimed filmmaker and avowed Hellboy fan. del Toro has never made a secret of his love for Mike Mignola’s creation, and while the first Hellboy movie wasn’t a flop, neither was it the Spider-Man-esque hit studios were hoping for. It took a good few years and more than a little effort to get a sequel made, but it finally arrived with del Toro at the helm, promising to deliver the same horrific fairy tale creatures seen in Pan’s Labyrinth. Ah, but in what context?

‘Don’t look at me, Abe, that’s what your mom said would happen.’

A young Hellboy once heard tell about a war between men and elves, in which the elves created 70 times 70 indestructible mechanical soldiers to decimate their enemies. Horrified by the ensuing carnage, the Elf King made peace with mankind, hid away the golden army, and broke the crown needed to control them into three pieces. And so the story passed into myth until the present day, when one of the pieces is discovered, drawing the king’s son Nuada out of exile. Fed up with the way humans have despoiled the planet while the people of the earth — elves, faeries, goblins, and the like — have been driven underground, he sets out to reclaim the other pieces, revive the golden army, and lay waste to the race of men. Standing in his way? His twin sister Nuala, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, and one pissed-off, cigar-chomping demon with a gun. It’s a bad day to be a bad guy.

Let’s get it out of the way: if your favorite part of Star Wars was the cantina scene, you’re not going to be disappointed. Hellboy II answers back with a lengthy scene set in a troll market, and the numerous beasties Nuada throws at our heroes (including, spoiler, the golden army itself) can’t fail to impress with their unique and bizarre looks. From the bustling activity of the market to the helmet of new hero Johann Krauss, del Toro clearly subscribes to the theory that there should always be some random machinery or creatures in motion at all times. Speaking of Krauss, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane makes his motion picture debut as Hellboy’s officious new boss who happens to consist of ectoplasm occupying a containment suit. I have no idea how accurate MacFarlane’s accent might be, but he’s both amusing and reasonably restrained, something I wasn’t sure he could pull off. Perlman is great once again as Hellboy, striking the pitch perfect notes of the working man’s demon smasher, while Doug Jones gets a chance to shine as Abe Sapien, this time with more to do. Selma Blair is fine as Liz, but doesn’t get to emote as much this time around… ironic, given her circumstances. That said, the heavy makeup and prosthetics of the elf twins means Nuada never seems as angry as he should, and the tenderness Nuala is supposed to be showing is always tempered by a slight ick factor. But maybe that’s what del Toro was going for… they are outcasts, after all.

While Hellboy II gets a lot of things right, I think in one area it reaches a bit further than it probably should have. We all saw the first Hellboy movie, and more importantly we saw X-Men… the notion of a hero protecting a world that fears and hates him is old hat. One of the things I like about the Hellboy comics is that his existence has always been public, so nobody bats an eye at the giant devil creature standing next to them. Here we’re treated to more of the standard “once the novelty wears off, people start to hate him because he looks different” vibe, and it just feels so tired. I know they’re building up the theme of Hellboy having more in common with his enemies than those he protects (see also: the first movie), but did we really need the angry mob who turn on him for rescuing a baby? I expected more subtlety from a director of del Toro’s ability; as is, it’s so over the top that HB might as well be bellowing “Fire bad!” at the top of his lungs. (Mind, they actually do show a clip from The Bride of Frankenstein on a TV in the background of the very next scene. Y’know, in case you didn’t get it.)

That’s a relatively minor complaint, though, and Hellboy II does far more right than wrong. Granted, I’m a little disturbed that both Abe and Liz make decisions to save their loved ones at the theoretical expense of the rest of the world — so much for the greater good, I guess — but if you’re a romantic at heart, you’ll probably appreciate a movie filled with so many pariahs in love. On the other hand, if you’re someone like me who just likes watching gruff heroes take on mad (but slightly sympathetic) villains who respond by unleashing a cavalcade of horrors on them, this film has got you covered. We may never know exactly what convinced movie execs to take another chance on Hellboy, but be glad they did, and hope that someday Hellboy III is just as strong of an effort.

If anyone yells ‘Go team!’, I’m leaving.

Jack and the Beanstalk II: The Beanstalk Bites Back.

Jack and the Beanstalk II: The Beanstalk Bites Back.

Intermission!

  • In the comics, Johann Krauss is a professional medium who was conducting a seance when his physical body was destroyed, leaving his ectoplasmic spirit without a form to inhabit. A containment suit was quickly devised for him by the B.P.R.D., whom he subsequently joined. The movie version combines elements of Johann and another comic character, Captain Benjamin Daimio, a no-nonsense military veteran brought in to lead the B.P.R.D.’s field team after Hellboy’s departure; his by-the-book style often clashed with Liz. Interestingly, neither Johann nor Daimio has ever met Hellboy.
  • In Hellboy, Abe Sapien was physically played by Doug Jones, but voiced by an uncredited David Hyde Pierce. Jones would go on to voice Abe in the two animated Hellboy movies, and in The Golden Army he portrays Abe both physically and vocally. Jones also played the Angel of Death- the vocal effect was achieved by him recording each line twice, once in a high-pitched voice and once lower-pitched, and overlaying the two.
  • Young Hellboy is… terrifying, frankly. Guess he grew into those ears and teeth, huh?
  • Agent Myers from the first Hellboy movie doesn’t appear because the actor who played him, Rupert Evans, was committed to appearing in a play in London. He’s mentioned in passing, Hellboy claiming to have had him transferred to Antarctica.
  • I’ll admit it’s kind of badass, but the twirling blade thing is so overplayed, don’t you think?
  • The Elf King’s guards remind me of Pyramid Head from Silent Hill.
  • In the first Hellboy movie, all of HB’s fellow agents were named after things found in the earth: Lime, Moss, Quarry, Stone, and Clay. The Golden Army continues the trend, with the agents named after slightly tougher materials: Marble, Flint, and Steel.
  • At one point a theater marquee can be seen reading “See You Next n sday”. This is a nod to John Landis, who references the fictional film “See You Next Wednesday” in all of his movies.
  • When Hellboy holds a baby he’s rescuing with his tail and comments “First piece of tail, kid,” my DVD subtitles interpreted that as “First praise the tail, kid.” Which is good advice for everyone, really.
  • In the comics, Hellboy is simply said to be the son of *a* high-ranking devil; The Golden Army takes this one step further, labeling him as the son of the Fallen One.
  • Nuada’s henchman, the one-eyed troll Mr. Wink, was named after Selma Blair’s one-eyed dog Wink.
  • She’s certainly no uggo, but with all respect, I’ll still take Liv Tyler, thanks.

Groovy Quotes

Nuada: Sit down! Proud, empty, hollow things that you are. Let this remind you why you once feared the dark.

Manning: Officially we do not exist, you see. So that’s the problem when we get these. Subway. Highway. Ah, park. And he posed for this one and gave an autograph. I suppress each photo. Cell phone videos. They cost me a fortune and they show up on YouTube! God, I hate YouTube.

Liz: We have no survivors, no bodies.
Hellboy: Same story here, babe.
Liz: Don’t call me “babe.”
Hellboy: “Abe,” I said. “Abe.” Wrong channel. *flips button* Phew. Abe, I think Liz is still mad at me.
Liz: Still the same channel.

Abe: There are no corpses because there are no leftovers. Have you noticed the floor?
Hellboy: Aw, crap.
Abe: Precisely. All these things do is eat and eat, then poop, and then eat again.
Liz: Remind you of anyone?

Johann: Nice baby!
“Infant”: I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor.

Johann: You will learn to obey me, follow protocol, and stay focused at all times.
Hellboy: Oh, that word, “fockused”? Yeah, with your accent, I wouldn’t use it that much.

Hellboy: You’re in love. Have a beer.
Abe: Oh, my body’s a temple.
Hellboy: Well, now it’s an amusement park.

Liz: We are looking for Prince Nuada.
Goblin: Ah, him I know. Trade me something and I’ll take you to him.
Liz: Here- I have a shiny belt.
Goblin: But I have no pants.
Liz: Look! A wonderful set of magic eyes.
Goblin: I already have binoculars.

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1 Comment

  1. “You got your X-Men in my Hellboy!” But rather than being two great tastes that taste great together, it’s one great taste and one not so great taste (did I mention I don’t particularly care for X-Men) that taste horrible together.

    As for Krauss’ accent, I would call it campy (as most attempts at German accents by non-Germans tend to be). But in his case, the campiness is somewhat appropriate.

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