Rating: 3 stars
My friends were all pretty stunned when I told them I was looking forward to Hellboy II: The Golden Army—I’m not usually a Hellboy kinda gal. But what many people don’t realize is Hellboy is not just a high-budget comic-book action film featuring a cigar-chomping, do-gooder demon and his band of mutant sidekicks, it’s a high-budget comic-book action film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Yup, the same visionary genius who did Pan’s Labyrinth. Color me stoked.
In some ways, Hellboy II is a strange cross between the gruesome/beautiful otherworld depicted in Pan’s Labyrinth and your standard summer blockbuster. I love Ron Perlman’s take on Hellboy—he plays him as a lovable lug with a fearsome temper—but is it really all that different from Michael Chiklis’s take on a similar character in The Fantastic Four? And while some of the film’s wit is spot-on—a scene where Hellboy sings a bad Barry Manilow duet with his lovesick amphibian pal Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) is both touching and funny—other bits, like when Hellboy spits out “and stay down!” after punching a baddie’s lights out, are fairly generic.
Still, that demon underworld is something to behold. You see, a restless demon prince wants to awaken a fearsome army that would spell the end of mankind. It’s up to Hellboy and company to stop him. Along the way, they sneak inside a demon marketplace—crawling with a rogue’s army of grotesqueries—that would do George Lucas proud. Indeed, I wanted them to stay longer inside that disturbing, eye-popping place. If anything, del Toro’s film is overstuffed. The man may have too much imagination (a brilliant bit involving a truth-seeing mask is used briefly and discarded)—I wish he'd had the patience to linger over his sick creations.
That being said, it’s a short-attention-span world—and maybe Hellboy II is the perfect film for it. It combines a flashy, pulp sensibility with something truly artistic and demented. The kids at the multiplex won’t even know what hit them.