Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Fresh from the critical and commercial success of his Oscar-feted Spanish horror-fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro returns to Hollywood with a second blockbuster adaptation of Dark Horse Comics’ cult supernatural title.
A new storyline, not based on an existing comic but co-written with the Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, pits the hell-spawned hero against a mighty mechanised legion of unstoppable warriors. An imaginatively designed prologue employing low-tech wooden puppets, and framed as a bedtime story read to young Hellboy by his adoptive human father Professor Bruttenholm (John Hurt playing a character killed in the previous film), fills in the backstory of an ancient war between men and magical creatures which finally ended with the construction of the ultimate deterrent. Cut to the present, and vengeance-driven elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss, formerly of Bros, and not at all bad) is about the nefarious business of reanimating the automatons with the intention of wiping out mankind. Thus, Hellboy’s childhood nightmare comes true, as the big, red bruiser (once again played with sassy attitude by Ron Perlman) and his fellow super-powered freaks at the top secret Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are mobilised by the US government to take down the troublesome pointy-eared sprite.
The sequel has more of everything – monsters, action, humour, character development, supporting cast and mythology – but it suffers from an overabundance of riches. As a result of trying to squeeze too much in the film’s pacing frequently drags, while the overlong and repetitive special effects-laden action set pieces outstay their welcome. Worse, the self-consciously corny humour of the comics and previous film is overplayed to the point of silliness, and attempts to develop romantic relationships between the characters, particularly Hellboy and fire-starter Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), fall flat. Even del Toro’s thematic preoccupation with reality and the imagination is beginning to wear thin. It certainly has its moments, but Hellboy II is a disappointment.
Out now on general release.