Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

CapeCapeCapeHalf a balding head

The Elves have created a magical Weapon of Mass Destruction that is capable of wiping out the human race. But can it wipe out Hellboy?

Who cares — the action plot isn’t really the issue here. Because between the first and second Hellboy films, Guillermo del Toro made the stunning Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno), and suddenly gained tremendous cred as a unique and visionary artist, with a visual style as imaginative and distinctive as that of Gilliam or Burton. Or to be more exact, he gained cred as a financially successful unique and visionary artist. As a result, when Hellboy II came along, he was now encouraged to imbue it with the richness of his now-bankable imagination.

The overall plot is straightforward enough: the bad guy is going to unleash doomsday, and the good guys have to find him and Hellboy has to fight him. After almost dying during their last encounter. The fight is adequately satisfying, but what this film will be remembered for is the strange and wonderful stuff that the BPRD team encounters during the search. The Golden Army itself may be just a bunch of noisy CGI, but the characters that lead them to it are dazzling, unforgettable, and very well realized.

Certain characters also get a tragic-love subplot. And the element of tragedy and loss, as irreplaceable pieces of the magical realm are slowly depleted by conflict with the mundane world, is never too far from the forefront. The villain is a legitimately tragic figure. This aspect helps to further lift the film out of the action-blockbuster morass. But don’t take that to mean that the film doesn’t have laughs.

There are some missteps. There’s some very juvenile rebellion- against- authority behavior that feels forced and out-of-character for some of the people who indulge in it. The newly created pieces of mythos don’t mesh very well with the ones that were established prior to this movie. Seth MacFarlane’s droll German accent when voicing Johann Krauss may be too damn much for some viewers. And, of course, despite everything else it wants to do, the film still has to be an action blockbuster. This is a film full of art, but it’s no art film.

It is, however, definitely worth seeing.