'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army' - We Review, You Review

Johann Kraus (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, Ron Pearlman as Hellboy and Selma Blair as Liz in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."
Credit: Universal Pictures

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army isn’t another comic book movie.

Yes, I know he comes from the pages of Mike Mignola’s Dark Horse comic series. But as envisioned by writer-director Guillermo del Toro, the sequel to the 2004’s Hellboy is an action-packed, darkly funny fairy tale with fantastical underworlds, grotesque monsters, and ages-old enemies.

Based on an original story from del Toro and Mignola, the plot surrounds an ancient truce between mankind and the magical underworld beneath ruled by King Balor.

In the present day, the King’s son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is tired of the ages-long détente and plans to awaken a Golden Army of unstoppable soldiers to attack humanity.

Meanwhile, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is one frustrated Hellspawn. Tired of living in the shadows, Hellboy sightings are all over the news and YouTube. With Rupert Evans’ Agent Myers wisely written out of the sequel, Perlman gets even more time to shine as the blue-collar title player. Red’s rebellious, cranky, wisecracking nature is on full display here. He also gets to do the ‘bickering couple’ bit with Liz (Selma Blair).

They’ve reached that point as a couple where the passion cools, routines are formed, and fights are common.

Blair in particular shines. No longer the fragile girl afraid to use her powers, she’s confident and self-assured – and she’s tired of sharing Hellboy’s BPRD’s basement with all his junk (and litter of cats). The two have strong chemistry that comes across very well.

Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) is back as Red’s BPRD buddy, and the filmmakers wisely get him out of the fish tank for a good stretch. His friendship with Red is one of the movie’s strengths.

The new kid on the block is Johann Strauss, a protoplasmic being in a hilarious '20,000 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea' suit who’s the BPRD’s new public liaison. Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane does the voice and delivers some of the film’s best lines.

When Hellboy’s existence, the worst-kept classified secret EVER, is finally exposed, Red is caught off-guard by how humans view him, as one of the monsters he risks his life to defend them from. That realization stays with Hellboy the entire film.

Speaking of monsters, the first ones we meet are cute but deadly swarm of tooth fairies who will literally eat humans alive to get their calcium fix.

Other brilliantly conceived creatures include the Elemental Forest God, a seven-story beanstalk that not only gives Hellboy a terrific fight, but also makes him question why he does what he does.

But it’s the underground Troll Market that will have everyone talking afterward. If C3PO and RSD2 would have gotten lost on the way to Docking Bay 94, this is what the back alleys behind the Mos Eisley Cantina would have looked like.

Everything from human skin to opium is for sale here, by all manner of strange creatures that sprang from del Toro’s trusty sketchbook. How he did it all on an $85 million budget is beyond me.

Production designer Stephen Scott’s team brought the Troll Market and its inhabitants to life, and it is a visual treat.

So is the animation used during the opening flashback scene. It’s like a blend of the start of Coppola’s Dracula with The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Among the many well-staged action scenes is a brawl at the Troll Market between Red and the Prince’s bodyguard troll Wink and a Matrix-like duel between Hellboy and the Prince.

The film’s biggest weakness is the central story. Everything leading up to it is so much more interesting, that the final battle with the Golden Army, which I assume was pretty important since it’s in the title, is staggeringly anticlimactic.

Other rough spots include the ill-advised, poorly scripted romance between Abe and the Prince’s twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton).

However, without that romance, we wouldn’t have been treated to Hellboy and Abe drowning their relationship sorrows in beer and a duet of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” So I guess it was worth it.

Hellboy 2, like most sequels, is bigger, broader and at times clumsier. But the characters – especially Hellboy and Liz – are so well-developed, and the environments surrounding them so captivating, you forget the small stuff and just enjoy what’s onscreen.

The end of the film points our heroes into new, and somewhat more serious, territory than we’ve seen in the first two films. That makes the idea of a “Hellboy 3” very enticing. I for one would like to see where del Toro takes us next, and what strange creatures we’ll encounter along the way.

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