Monday, July 14, 2008


A soothsaying fallen angel with eyes in its wings. A towering forest God with vines for limbs and a shrieking, praying mantis visage. Pint-sized “tooth fairies” with the appetite and razor-sharp incisors of flying piranha. In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Guillermo del Toro lets both his imagination and his FX team run wild, unleashing a veritable cornucopia of weird and wild, baroque and ghoulish beasties. If only such go-for-broke ingenuity extended to the storytelling—really, a higher creature count is the only significant improvement del Toro makes on his franchise formula with this been-there-done-that follow-up. Louder, faster, and busier than its more charmingly eccentric predecessor, Hellboy II finds our grumpy, stogy-chomping hero (Ron Perlman, still terrific) grappling with both his perpetually peeved, firestarter girlfriend (Selma Blair) and an ancient, war-mongering elf prince (Luke Goss) trying to resurrect a battalion of hulking, clockwork golems to do his bidding. There’s no shortage of breathless action showdowns or eye-popping visual wonders in del Toro’s deep bag of tricks. What’s more, his walking tours through the BPRD headquarters (think Men In Black on mushrooms) and bustling Troll’s Alley (think the Star Wars cantina on acid) solidify his status as a peerlessly inventive weaver of worlds. Yet as with the grossly over-praised Pan’s Labyrinth, the writer-director proves less successful in integrating these worlds, here finding an uneasy balance between stoned-faced, Tolkien-Lite mythology and the jovial misadventures of Hellboy’s bickering entourage. (Not surprisingly, it’s the latter scenes that lend the film its scarce traces of emotional resonance—a drunken, lovelorn duet between the titular demon and his psychic comrade Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) is the movie’s funny-poignant highlight.) I’m probably in the minority here, but by failing to push its characters or themes in brave new directions, Hellboy II feels like that rare comic-book sequel that lands a notch or two below its origin-story forbearer. Regardless, I still prefer del Toro’s studio-made, fanboy larks to his fancifully middlebrow “art house” excursions. Might be in the minority there, too. B


Sara said...

Keep up the good work, pal-a-roo! I'm really proud of you.

Josh Staman said...
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