I was awed and amazed by Pan's Labyrinth, and I really liked the first Hellboy movie, but I can now say with certainty that I am officially in love with Guillermo del Toro's beautiful brain. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is like being cast back to a time when your young imagination had no boundaries and no inner editor. Del Toro's vibrant, exciting, sometimes nightmarish and often funny work of creative genius is a constant delight. At times it veers into cheesy superhero stuff, and viewers who don't like this kind of thing definitely won't be on board for this movie. But viewers who do like it — and those with a soft spot in their hearts for big Red — may be totally delighted.
When we catch up with our hero Hellboy, he and his lady love Liz (Selma Blair) and their good buddy Abe (Doug Jones) are still working for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, using their superpowers to help people out. But even so, the public gives them no respect, no respect at all. And now they have the problem of Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a rebellious leader of the creature world who is determined to summon the Golden Army, a vast army of robot-like warriors, to destroy all humans. Hellboy, Abe and Liz are joined by the ectoplasmic Johann Strauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane), along with the leader's twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) to stop Prince Nuada's evil plan. Meanwhile, Hellboy and Liz are having issues, Hellboy is struggling with his job, and Abe develops a bit of a crush on Princess Nuala.
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In addition to del Toro's awesome visual style, which is sometimes nostalgically reminiscent of older movies like The Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and Return of the Jedi, the story in this Hellboy sequel is great. It's simple, interesting enough, and easily wrapped up in less than two hours while also providing plenty of fodder for future sequels. But the real strength of the film lies in del Toro's artistic mastery combined with the motley gang of misfit creatures who lead us on this adventure. Of course, our beloved Hellboy, with all his macho posturing, sardonic wit and soft spot for cats, is at the heart of it all. But while his wry zingers sometimes smack of cheesy action hero lines previously reserved for the likes of Arnold Schwartzenegger, the character of Hellboy is more complex than that. He's insecure and struggles with his temper.
I think that's what I like most about these superheroes: they're quite flawed. They are incredibly emotional, fallible and misunderstood. And in an age-old lesson, they appear to be beasts but are actually helping to save the world. You won't find those toned, cocky Fantastic Four types here. There's a little more going on beneath the surface — not a ton, it's still a pretty light superhero flick, but enough to give us something to actually care about.
I'm not usually of the mind that a movie should have more and more sequels (see: the Spider-Man franchise, which should just stop), and in fact, I can't recall any time I've ever said I'd like to see a sequel to a movie as soon as possible. But if I had my way, I'd like del Toro to put out a new Hellboy installment every single year. I love what he's doing with this series, and I just can't wait to see what else comes out of that mind.
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures