Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Let me preface this review with the following: I know nothing about Hellboy, I didn’t see the first one, and I’m not a comic book geek.

I did not know what to expect from Hellboy II. I am shocked to say that this was one of my favorite movies of the summer. Hellboy II does not fit into a specific genre, and I truly didn’t think Hollywood made these types of movies anymore. It’s a sci-fi, action-adventure, romantic-comedy. It’s a throwback to the 80’s when movies could have a mix of themes, and were not formulaic (think Back to the Future or Ghostbusters.)

Hollywood tends to stick to basic formulas so the studios know they will make a certain amount of money. Why change things and take a chance on a box office bomb? The studio wisely trusted Guillermo Del Toro with his vision, and he rewards them (and us) with an inventive, creative, and fun movie. (Interestingly enough, the original Hellboy did mediocre at the box office and was dropped by Sony Studios. Universal then bought the rights to distribute the sequel.)

Guillermo Del Toro

He’s been working in film for years, but the casual film viewer probably recognizes his name from Pan’s Labyrinth. It won three Oscar’s last year including best foreign film of the year. Del Toro is daring, creative, and inventive—he is like a blend of Tim Burton (BeetleJuice, Batman) and Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings.) In fact, he will be directing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit 1 and 2 which are due to come out in 2011 and 2012 respectively. (And he also kind’ve looks like Peter Jackson too.) Just to note, Del Toro tuned down the opportunity to direct I am Legend, Harry Potter 6, and Wanted so he could write/direct Hellboy II.

The Plot

At the start of the movie, the simple premise is explained comically. Hellboy was discovered as a youngster, and the government took him in and raised him. The first scene shows Hellboy as a little kid getting ready for bed. His father tucks him in reads him a bedtime story a la The Princess Bride. That’s when Del Toro sucks us in by revealing a detailed and imaginative underworld of machines, monsters, and royalty. We learn about the 3 piece crown and whoever acquires it can control the Golden Army, an unstoppable force. The movie then cuts to present day and we soon learn that the pieces of the crown are scattered across the world and someone very evil is hunting for them.

In the present day, Hellboy is part of The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (think Men in Black) which is run by the government and organized by the very funny Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, The Larry Sanders Show.) Their job is to protect the human world from the monsters that occassionally appear from the magical one. The BPRD are supposed to be a secret society, but Hellboy is bent on being famous and in the limelight. He poses for pictures and acts like a boy; he just wants to be liked.

The movie does a nice job of introducing the bad guys and actually developing them. We meet the evil Prince, his twin sister, and the rest of his family nice and early. Prince Nuida is a sword wielding psycho intent on world domination, and he’s actually pretty smart too. He is aided by some awesome monsters and weapons; things I’d never seen before.

Hellboy and the Prince are on a Lord of the Rings type chase for the crown. They battle along the way and we get to see the bag of tricks the evil Prince has to offer. Del Toro provides us with some spectacular, creative, and imaginative action sequences. Some of the characters are so original that I don’t even know how to describe them. It was so fun seeing such fantastic and unique characters/villains/weapons on the big screen. I loved it!

Star Wars

It’s strange to say, but a lot of the movie reminded me of the original Star Wars. Hellboy is a dead ringer for Han Solo. He’s a total wise-ass who smokes cigars, drinks beer in the shower, and has a love-hate relationship with his girl. Ron Perlman is amazing as Hellboy and it’s pretty hard not to like him.

Liz (Selma Blair), whose power is the ability to turn into a burst a flames, is a dead ringer for Princess Leah. She’s tough, sexy, and although she gives Hellboy a hard time, you know she loves him.

Their buddy is Abe Sapien who is an amphibian-type person with the super-high IQ. He fills in as C3PO (he also reminded me of Data from Star Trek: Next Generation) solving problems with his mind and occasionally making the timely joke with his sharp sense of humor.

And you remember the bar scene in Star Wars—unique looking monsters hanging out, chilling, occasionally fighting. Han Solo then comes in and kicks some ass. That’s Hellboy II in a nutshell. I’m not saying this movie holds a candle to Star Wars, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Conclusion

Hellboy II by no means is a perfect movie. There are 5-6 scenes (15-20 minutes) that you could do without, but that’s my only knock on the movie. I can understand why people might want to stay from it. They might say it’s too weird or they’ve never heard of Hellboy. (Or they might be my buddy EY who hates fantasy movies.) Well, I think they’d be missing out. This is one of the better sci-fi action-adventure movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s got a little romance, smart humor, wonderful characters, and exciting action scenes. Del Toro is an absolute genius. His ability to transform his unbelievable imagination on to the big screen is an absolute gift. Hellboy II lets you escape the real world and allows you to delve into the mind of Del Toro for 100 minutes which is definitely a fun, unique, and enjoyable experience.

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