Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hellboy II

The first Hellboy (2004) was everything a Super Hero movie should was fast-paced, had characters you liked and cared about, had great fight scenes and, above all, was fun. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) is the sequel, highly anticipated by many of us but not on the same level as Iron Man or The Dark Knight. Nevertheless, since Ironman Al was in town we headed out for the flick. On arrival we got a horrifying scare as the line snaked out of the theatre, down the wall, and around the corner. Fortunately, it turned out to be for another movie...oddly, Mama Mia (2008), it must have been a sneak peak.

The Golden Army recreates the opening from the first movie to refresh our memory, then gives us a peak at Hellboy growing up under the tutelage of Professor Broom (John Hurt) as he gets a Christmas story about the Golden Army and how they turned the tide in the Elven/faery world in their war with the humans. Even at 14 years of age he loves guns...going to sleep with a toy pistol after the story. Fast forward a few decades and things are much the same as they were at the end of Hellboy. He is living with Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) in pseudo-happiness...they are not completely at peace with one another. Furthermore, he is at odds with section director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). To get him "under control" Manning brings in Johann Krauss (Seth McFarlane), pictured above left.
To create conflict we get the evil Elven son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss). Unsatisfied with the truce, he murders his father, tracks down his twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) and the pieces of the crown. When Hellboy gets in the way, Nuada threatens him with a tree elemental. To fight it Hellboy breaks out Big Baby, the gun pictured above. Oddly, he is he is hesitant to fire it off. Finally he does, blowing away the elemental but in the meanwhile the sub-theme of the movie is brought ever more clearly to light. Will mankind ever accept Hellboy or will he always be feared, despised and rejected by them?
Princess Nuala is caught up in the same struggle. She also provides Abe Saperstein (Doug Jones) with his first love interest as the 2 share a bond that will move the story along. Ultimately Nuala will have to choose between allowing her brother to gain control over the Golden Army and destroy mankind...or killing herself to stop him. Her relationship with Abe provides more tension over this internal conflict.
Ultimately the final battle takes place as Hellboy and Liz, Abe and Nuala all must come to peace with their decisions and the consequences those decisions will have.

Along the way there is plenty of action including a highly entertaining battle between Hellboy and Wink (Brian Steele). Perhaps the funniest moment in a movie full of 1-liners comes when Hellboy shows the tooth knocked out in their battle to Wink and says, "Happy?" to which Wink extends his extend-a-hand which has been smashed into itself and wordlessly whines back what is clearly interpreted as,"Hey, what about what you did to me?"

This movie has plenty of laughs, characters you care about, plenty of action and a lot of fun. It is not as funny as the first, the action is not quite as is good but somehow, just barely, misses the mark and neither Al nor I could put our finger on why. If you liked the first one you will like this one, if not then save your dough.

There is one additional bit of curiosity here. That has to do with the marketing. It was heavily marketed as being by "the director of Pan's Labyrinth (2006). " Okay, fair enough. Except the audiences for those two movies...well, I would not expect a lot of overlap.

People going to see Pan are more likely to be the art-house crowd, the people who think "independent" and "foreign" are code-words for "great movie" and that "blockbuster" and "making money" and "tentpole picture" are code words for "horrible movie that should never have been made". I am one of the few, the far between, the people who might like both. But as a general rule, fans of Pan are more likely to want a sequel to The Piano (1993) than to see any Super Hero movie, particularly one like Hellboy II.

It would seem more likely he would be touted for Mimic (1993), Hellboy (2004), or even the forthcoming Dr. Strange (2010), Hobbit (2011, 2012) or something along that lines. Yes, Pan was more recent...but the numbers were not staggering and it is hardly a ringing endorsement. If you say it will echo "popular Superhero movies of the last decade" and reference the Spiderman or Batman franchises...that marketing would make sense. But as it was, that struck me every time I heard it as being odd. Just a thought.
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