By Clint Morris
Having Guillermo del Toro helm another â€˜’Hellboy” movie – the 2004 original, which he did for Sony, was only a moderate success on it’s initial theatrical run but garnered a following later on DVD, hence the sequel Universal let him do – is like getting Picasso to paint your house – he’ll do a great job, that’s a givin, but you’re wasting their time… and talent.
Not to say del Toro’s effects-heavy â€˜’Hellboy” sequel is a bad film, it’s not – it’s actually a fun film with lots of action, terrific characters, and wonderful creatures – but it’s a well-worn road that the Spanish filmmaker has travelled down already. There really was no need for him to take this route again – especially after the Oscar Winning masterpiece â€˜’Pan’s Labyrinth”. In the filmmaking game, you’ve got to step forward… not back.
Hellboy, born out of a little-known Darkhose comic book of the same name, is a devil-like creature with red skin, horns, a tail, and a large stone right hand, originally used by the Nazis to change the tide of war (Ron Perlman, in what’s arguably his best role, plays Hellboy… or â€˜Red’ as he’s affectionately known).Â These days, the cigar-chomping big guy works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD), a federal agency dedicated to combating occult threats.
This time, the mythical world – led by an evil prince (Luke Goss) – starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his team (including Abe Sapien, Johann Krauss and girlfriend Liz Sherman) must save the world from the rebellious creatures.
With â€˜’Hellboy II : The Golden Army”, de Toro doesn’t so much improve on the first film as he does make a nice colour copy of it. Nothing has really been improved upon (the only real difference between the two films is that this one skip over the Who is he? What is he? How he did he become to work for the government? stuff) – if anything, the two films are near indistinguishable, no better or worse than one another. And considering that first film was merely a fun but forgettable diversion, it seems like an uneconomical exercise.
There might be a bit more money on screen this time around – Â the filmmaker obviously had a few more pennies to play with this time – but instead of getting some remarkable young hotshot screenwriter to punch up his fairly standard script, del Toro just invested in a dozen more creatures.
Unlike say, “The Dark Knight”, another superhero film of recent times, which was drenched in emotion and fantastically stirring, “Hellboy II” is pretty lightweight stuff. In many respects, it’s a family film that’ll appeal more to “Narnia” fans than it will die-hard comic buffs with a tickling for the angst-driven crime fighter tale. To really grab people by the underwear tag and not let go, it needed to do more than just serve up pratfalls and punches. There was a real opportunity here for del Toro to explore some deeper themes here, especially with the whole â€˜outsider’ angle to the film, but he doesn’t – he just fills his frame with cheesy jokes, loud but laughable action sequences, and, as I said, creatures.
Thankfully, there’s still a lot here to enjoy – the least of which is Ron Perlman’s insanely terrific performance as Hellboy – and you’ll never get bored. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking… or even something of the “Dark Knight” ilk.
Life’s too short to see your genius wasted on Hollywood fluff, del Toro.
Talk about value for money! This 3-Disc Special Edition – The 3rd disc is a digital copy of the movie which you can apparently (I haven’t tried it yet) transfer to your PC or ipod to watch on the go! – comes with a conglomerate of extras.
Guillermo Del Toro’s audio commentary is a must for fans of the man, and his fantasy film series. You’ll learn a great deal about what went into making the movie. The second audio track, featuring Cast Members Jaffrey Tambor, Selma Blair and Luke Goss, isn’t half as informative but it’s fun (for some reason Ron Perlman is absent from the commentary!).
In addition, there’s a fantastic and very exhaustive making-of the movie (I believe it ran for over 2 hours!), some deleted scenes (personally not a big fan of the deleted scene; Del Toro seems to have cut these bits for good reason too), an animated comic, a sectioned-off set visit featurette, a bit where Del Toro shows us around the ‘Troll Market’, and a gallery of pics and posters.
Accompanied by the terrific widescreen presentation, not to mention the lobe-splitting 5.1 stereo soundtrack, it makes for quite the disc!