I loved the original "Hellboy", it was quite a good translation (but he looks more human in the movie) to the highly successful comic series by Mike Mignola. The original film was scrappy, clever, comical, slimy, action-packed but above all, it had Heart and Soul. The original was a movie about destiny and choices; "What makes a man a man?" Boy, that is one awesome phrase. This summer's sequel, "HELLBOY 2: The Golden Army" may have all the original film's qualities but somehow, you feel it holding back a little bit and it seems to try to fulfill more genre requirements and contains more straight-forward "geekiness" than the original. Guillermo Del Toro returns at the helm along with Mike Mignola as co-writer; this sequel is a very enjoyable ride.
Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is having a ball. He has an intimate relationship with Liz (Selma Blair), he has a lot of cats, an unlimited supply of candy and cigars, and he watches a ton of television. Sure, he has the usual supernatural tussles as part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, but life is good for Big Red. However, an ancient threat is poised to be awakened by an exiled Prince Nuada (Luke Gross). The Prince intends to awaken the so-called "Golden Army" composed of self-generating mechanical soldiers to take vengeance upon humanity. It's up to Big Red with the aid of familiar faces Liz and Abe Sapien, along with a new comer named Johann Kraus (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) to try to stop the impending war. But that's the least of Hellboy's issues, didn't I mention he has a girlfriend?
Guillermo Del Toro is a great storyteller. "Pan's Labyrinth" was without a doubt one of the most groundbreaking foreign films ever produced and this is Del Toro's next film after that success. Del Toro seems to have a tiny obsession with the supernatural and it shows. However, this film seems to come straight from the Hollywood oven but it didn't limit his imagination and creativity. This sequel seemed too poised to fulfill genre expectations that the heart of the original film may have been left a little behind. I said "a little", I didn't say by a lot.
It is fairly obvious that this film had a larger budget than the original film. The sequences had more action and the special effects is nothing to sneeze at. The cast is an outrageous bunch of characters with amazing make-up. When I saw the "hidden" world of supernatural creatures, I thought I was in a Jim Henson movie. I haven't seen this much Fantasy elements compressed in one movie in awhile. With Guillermo's larger budget, we get to see the man's visual ambitions. The "Golden Army's "appearance itself borders on the ancient and the modern, and the movie is an overload of eye-candy visual effects that exceeds the original that it almost overshadowed the film's main concept.
Thankfully, "Hellboy 2" still has the same feel when it regards to its clever script. The dialogue is quite comical at times and there is quite an amount of humor dispersed throughout. Also, the film still has a heart and soul. Hellboy is a demon, an offspring of a major demonic entity destined to destroy the world. As such, he is not human, he is not "Iron Man", whose heroic attributes can easily be developed. Hellboy does what he does by choice, and while Tony Stark can be admired, Hellboy is hated by the very people who has chosen to protect. The film's powerful morality and humanity is on display when ordinary folks misunderstood Big Red's actions. The moral dilemma; that he is one of the "forgotten" beings and humans will always turn their back to Hellboy in the end is very involving. Yet, he still does his best protect humanity from the things that "go bump in the night". Liz (Selma Blair) is Big Red's anchor though all of this and provides him with the will to believe in what he does. Love also plays a key role not just in our main couples' lives but that feeling creeps up on "Blue" as well. (Abe Sapien)
The film has more action sequences than the original. The fights are cleverly executed and stay within the realm of comic book action. Big Red loves to "talk" while he fights and Ron Perlman does an outstanding job as our hero. The man is perfect as the beer-drinking, cigar smoking, candy-devouring hero. The "quippy" one-liners give the main character a lot of depth despite all that make up. The main antagonist, Prince Nuada seems to have stolen all his moves from a Hong Kong Martial Arts film. Maybe he went to study in the Shaolin Temple while he was in exile? I was waiting on someone to make a remark like that. Johann Kraus also adds a lot of new energy and "misty" charisma to the film's proceedings.
Despite some flaws and its fixation on goblins and monsters, "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" stands as a solid sequel. The film seems so bent on trying to exceed the original's special attributes that it almost lost its spirit. Guillermo del Toro and Mignola are to be commended that despite the overload of certain expected genre elements and fantasy tangents, the film still managed to stand on its own. I almost became concerned that all I came to see were a bunch is visual effects and people in rubber suits but the filmmakers still managed to put together a charming, clever, action-packed "popcorn" extravaganza.
At times, goofy and a lot of times also dramatic, the film nonetheless never loses its forward momentum. "Hellboy 2" comes with a highly recommended rating from me. The film has a ton of sci-fi/fantasy elements to spare but certain key ingredients including its energy prevent the film from becoming mediocre. This sequel may be more fun to watch than the original but with its predecessor's more "human" approach, I still found the original "Hellboy" slightly better. This sequel's sense of purpose and humanity, the humorous moments and infused warmth in the proceedings make it more than a your usual "super-hero film".
"I just can't Smile without you…" (that song is so catchy!)
Highly Recommended! [4 ½- Out of 5 Stars]
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