Superhero Month: "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" Review

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Directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, this fantasy adventure film is the sequel to 2004's Hellboy. Again the characters are based on those in Dark Horse Comics, and actors Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones reprise their roles as Hellboy, the combustible Liz Sherman, and the amphibian Abe Sapien, respectively. This time around an ancient feud between elves and humans is revived, leading to a huge battle involving 4,900 mechanical warriors.
3.5

Superhero Month: "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and violence, some language)
Length: 120 minutes
Release Date: July 11, 2008
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy

Those who didn't see the original "Hellboy" can still jump right into "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," a sequel which continues the adventures of Hellboy, who's referred to as Red (Ron Perlman) by his friends. Red has grown as a person since the last film, furthering his relationship with sweetheart Liz (Selma Blair), who can generate fire in the blink of an eye. He spends his days working at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, exterminating demons who threaten the humans that he defends.

In the world Red inhabits, humans and magical creatures had long been at war, but called a truce that gave the magical creatures the forests, with the humans getting control of the cities. Unfortunately, some greedy humans decided to go back on the truce by building parking lots and shopping malls in some forested areas. This irritates Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), who's livid that his fellow creatures seem undaunted by the broken truce. Since he's a hothead who can't control his ire, he decides to retaliate by raising the Golden Army, a band of slumbering super robots who could easily decimate the human population, leaving the magical creatures in control of both the forests and the cities.

The only way to wake up the Golden Army is by piecing together a broken crown, which has three parts guarded by three different people. Nuada has no trouble getting two of them, but the third belongs to his sister Nuala (Anna Walton), who doesn't want to give it up. She disagrees wholeheartedly with her brother's nefarious plan, and runs away with the crown piece to keep it out of Nuada's hands. She runs into the city, where she finds Red and his best friend, the fish-man Abe Sapien, who are no strangers to danger. They enlist Liz, who has grown powerful and confident in her abilities, to help them keep the final piece of the crown away from Nuada and ensure the Golden Army doesn't come back to life. They must overcome several obstacles on their adventure, some of which are hilarious in a dark way that will keep the audience well entertained.

Movie fans insist that it is usually an anomaly when a sequel actually bests the original in any way. There is the masterful "The Godfather: Part II," which managed to be better than the original, which was quite excellent already. "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" manages to be just a tad better than "Hellboy," which means that both are fantastically fun films. Much of the credit for this has to be laid at the feet of Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed both films.

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" is a great film in its own right, but it's also a good film for seeing director del Toro's progress as a visionary. He directed the original "Hellboy," which has become something of a cult favorite among fantasy film buffs and comic book fans. Two years later in 2006, he wrote and directed what some still consider to be his masterpiece, "Pan's Labyrinth," a film that received multiple Oscar nominations and wins. His very next directorial effort is this film, which shows how much he had grown not only as a director but as a visual genius in those few short years. All three films stand on their own merit, but del Toro's imagination seemed to run freer with each film. That means that "Hellboy 2: The Golden Army" is visually stunning and has an almost untamed creativity to it, a testament to del Toro's continued growth as a filmmaker.

There are rumors of a third film in the series, which would make it a true franchise that could likely go on for several years. There's plenty of source material from the comic books by Mike Mignola that spawned the character. In fact, the "Hellboy" comic books go all the way back to 1993, so there's no shortage of story lines and adventures to roll with. The irony of the situation is the two existing movies have helped make del Toro such a hot commodity he might not have time to helm a third installment. It would take a very careful search for the right director to replace del Toro, or fans could wait patiently while the director's schedule opens up. Either way, the good news for fans is that "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" is entertaining enough to watch over and over until a third film arrives, if it ever does.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5