HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008) review

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In commemoration of the upcoming reboot, HELLBOY (2019), I’ve decided to take a trip back in time to revisit the original films. In addition, for my review of the first installment, click the following link: HELLBOY (2004).

Cast: Ron Perlman (FANTASTIC BEASTS [2016]TANGLED [2010], and upcoming films HELL ON THE BORDER [2019] and MONSTER HUNTER [2019]), Selma Blair (LEGALLY BLONDE [2001], and the upcoming AFTER [2019]), Seth MacFarlane (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], SING [2016], TED 2 [2015]), Luke Goss (TRAFFIK [2018], and the upcoming RIA [2019]), and Anna Walton (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)

Director/Writer: Guillermo del Toro (SHAPE/WATER)
Composer: Danny Elfman (DUMBO [2019], DON’T WORRY [2018], JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017], GIRL/TRAIN [2016], END/TOUR [2015], MEN IN BLACK [1997], 2 [2002], and 3 [2012], TERMINATOR SALVATION [2009], THE KINGDOM [2007], CORPSE BRIDE [2005], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE [1996], and the upcoming THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE [2020])
Cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro (LONDON FIELDS [2018], SPAWN [1997], and the upcoming THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE)
Editor: Bernat Vilaplana (JURASSIC WORLD 2 [2018] and A MONSTER CALLS [2016])

This is my honest opinion of: HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY

 

(SUMMARY)

Long ago, a war was waged between humans and elves. The elves were near victory as their king led the invincible Golden Army, but the ensuing bloodshed was too much for the king to take, so he struck a truce with the humans for peace. He broke the crown that controlled the army, giving one piece of it to the humans, the other two for himself. However, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) never trusted humanity, went into exile, and vowed to return to finish the war.

In the present day, Nuada holds to his own vow and steals the crown piece from the humans, murdering many innocent people to get it. He also returns to his people and murders his own father for one of the pieces he has. However, the final piece is with Nuada’s twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton), who escapes his reach. Picking up the trail of dead in Nuada’s wake, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense gets involved with Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his allies hoping to protect Nuala.

(REVIEW)

Holy crap, this movie is leagues better than the original! I had fun, I laughed, I was invested, and I was far more invested in every way.

For one thing, yes, we do get another backstory opening sequence about Broom (John Hurt) reading the story about war between elves and humans, but this entire sequence is somewhere between six to six and a half minutes long. Holy crap, that’s a full ten minutes shorter than the previous film’s. It gets the information out in a silky smooth way, not too rushed, not too drawn out, but a perfect summary. Hell, I even enjoyed the artistic design of the story. They kind of looked like wooden marionette puppets, but it still didn’t shy away from violent and gruesome imagery. Nothing worse than a PG rating, but some of those visuals of a person getting impaled by a giant blade was certainly nothing to sneeze at. The perfect blend of childhood imaginings, but reminding us that this is a somewhat dark story. Honestly, the only thing I might legit critique is what they did to the kid who played young Hellboy (Montse Ribé). For one thing, his ADR was painfully noticeably off. I mean, it looked like he was struggling to work through all that make-up and prosthetic teeth, so it’s likely that they had him dub over his own lines, but nothing looks or sounds right about it. Not his fault of course, but still, maybe it would have been better just to snub that scene altogether and just keep the cool puppet imagery of the elf/human war.

Man, from this point on, the movie is a huge blast.

One of the easiest comparisons that could be made with a movie like this is Men in Black meets Harry Potter. Really think about that. Even in BPRD, you see a ton more creatures that the Bureau have captured over the years with funky things happening in the background. Gotta love it when the scenery chews the actors. Sure, MIB did it better, especially in the first one, but this still does an amusing job in its own right. I think a big reason for that is because more than a few of the creatures we see are not just CGI, but animatronics and puppetry. There’s also the Troll Market where more MIB and Harry Potter inspiration comes into play. The set is massive with a ton of puppetry and guys in suits, all looking at hugely creative and weird monsters for the characters to interact with. Damn cool in every way possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love Men in Black like the next dude, but there’s something about actually seeing funky-looking monsters as live-action instead of CGI is a talent that few besides del Toro could make wondrous. I will never truly understand how this movie is considered “equal” to the original. That movie has all of three monsters for Hellboy to fight, but this movie has countless.

The action is also really ramped up. I don’t know who did Luke Goss’ martial arts, if he did it himself, or it was a stunt double, but I love seeing Nuada jumping and flipping around. Martial arts films are tragically too rare in the states. It’s nice to see del Toro keeping, at least some of that spirit, alive in his CGI-heavy movie. But whoever that was, Nuada is fast, energized, and far more visceral than anything we got in the previous film. But it’s not even just him. When Hellboy is fighting Nuada, or anyone for that matter, he’s not quite as slow. He moves just as fast of the fastest of them. While I do kind of miss how sluggish and clunky he got in the first movie, as he doesn’t seem like a martial arts type who can twirl and do flips, but high energy action is always preferred, so I won’t complain too much. And when you have high energy with a creative mind like del Toro’s, you know you’re going to get something creative, and boy howdy do you get that in spades. Mr. Wink (Brian Steele) and his projectile fist, the Tooth Fairies, the guardian of the elven territory, everything in the Troll Market, I will forever consider that tumor moment as one of the funniest moments in superhero history. “I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor.” Oh my god, I still can’t stop laughing at that. I want to say that occasionally the creativity goes a little over the top, but all I have to do is think back to the sheer lack of creativity in the first film and be all too happy to see an overabundance of it. Del Toro at his finest, if you ask me.

Speaking of not getting over laughing about stuff, the comedy in this movie is much improved as well. Hellboy squeezing a tiny Tooth Fairy so hard that its head pops off like a toy, the fun nerdy bantering between Krauss (Seth MacFarlane) and Abe (Doug Jones), Hellboy punching an old lady a hundred yards (calm down, she was a demon), Krauss kicking Hellboy’s ass by possessing locker door, or that first fight between Hellboy and Nuada and Hellboy is drunk, the comedy is absolutely brilliant. But more than that, so do the connections you make with the characters. You find out pretty early on that Liz (Selma Blair) is pregnant, so she’s getting all hormonal and explosive with Hellboy. Not only does this add a fun new dimension to Liz’s character, which Blair was criminally giving only a one-note performance where even Tara Strong’s Raven emoted more than her. Here, she’s poppin’ with emotions. She’s a comic foil, sarcastic, critical, but in an adorable way, and is awesomely in on the action. As I understand it, Blair didn’t want Liz to be the helpless, overly vulnerable member of the team and wanted her to be much more developed. Hell yeah, it pays off. She gets plenty of cool scenes where she goes nuclear and kicking ass. Although, I do miss the blue fire, as opposed to the red. Blue fire is hotter after all. Anyway, I especially love this one scene where Hellboy and Abe are both confused about women, get drunk, and start singing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smiles Without You.” Not only is this hilarious, as you don’t think of a character as bad-ass as Hellboy or Ron Perlman to sing a ballad by Barry Manilow, or a character like Abe who is all about the intellectual life, his body is a temple, getting drunk, but they’re relating to each other in matters of the heart. The romances in this movie are so much more funny and doesn’t feel like they pause the movie to do something stupid. They feel like they further the characters and or contribute to the themes of the narrative.

Krauss is also a fun character as… well, basically a ghost that takes possession of what looks like a steampunk version of Spider-Man villain Mysterio. Not only because he’s voiced by Seth MacFarlane, but because he’s got such a fun array of powers. He can bring the dead back to life temporarily, possess pretty much any object, even one of the Golden Soldiers, and just has his own brand of awesomeness who can actually take Hellboy if he needed to. And I enjoy the twins Nuada and Nuala. Okay, so Nuada isn’t Shakespearean, but as a man who has presentation and bad-assery written all over him, it’s easy to be intrigued by what he does next, not necessarily his motivations. After all, why does it take him so long to enact his revenge against humanity? Why then in 2008 and not… earlier? Lazy writing? Beyond that, he’s cool. And I know that Nuala is more or less the resident damsel in distress, but I enjoy how she interacts with Abe as his romantic interest. They’re both clearly out of their element and have no idea how to flirt or even how to be romantic in general and seem more akin to children with crushes than adults. Far cuter than the failed adolescent bullshit of the previous film. By the way, I love Hellboy and Liz’s relationship better here than the previous one.

Now before anyone thinks that I have absolutely nothing but positive things to say here, sadly, I do have a few negatives that prevent this from being legitimately great.

A smaller issue is how they explain away Agent Myers from the first movie. Hellboy had him transferred to Antarctica. Yeah, that’s… pretty much it. No real elaboration, especially considering that they seemed like they were friends by the end of the first movie. Kind of a lame explanation, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

There are also some unfortunately not so well directed moments. There’s a scene where everyone’s fighting the Tooth Fairies and, of course of the nameless good guys gets swarmed and eaten alive, but the actual heroes like Hellboy and Abe just get a few scratches. At least with Liz, she has her full-body flaming aura that’s too hot for the Fairies to get through. Although it does take her a few minutes to do that. Either way, this is clearly convenience of writing.

The movie also tries to introduce ideas, like Hellboy being the only one of his kind and that he should join Nuada in his conquest against the humans, pitting him against a forest god, which is anti-climactically easy to kill off (it’s not a spoiler, as it happens pretty early on in the movie and it over in about five minutes), it’s just bizarre that this subplot would be brought forth and not really anything be done with it. <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ I suppose you could argue that this is supposed to factor into Liz’s challenge, “do you need everyone to like you, or am I enough” moment and was supposed to be added effect, since exposing BPRD didn’t pan out to everyone in the city liking him, but you’d think this level of manipulation would be more cleverly utilized. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>> Also, it’s not like Nuada is the last of his kind. The elves seem to be alive and well in their own little slice of the world, so why is he manipulating him like this? Kind of random.

Overall, this movie is awesome. Far superior to the original in every way. The action is great, the characters are fun and relatable, the visuals and set designs are stunning, and the creature designs, puppets, suits, and animatronics are fantastic, it’s everything that a sequel should be and I think it’s horrendously underrated as a great sequel. Knowing this, I’m actually a little nervous about the upcoming remake. I have no idea if it’s going to be more like the original, or like this. All I want is monsters for Hellboy to fight and charm. Let’s all hope for the best. But for now, we’ll have this gem.

My honest rating for HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY: a strong 4/5

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8 Replies to “HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008) review”

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