Friday, July 18, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I'm not terribly familiar with the Hellboy mythology, but that doesn't seem to pose much of a barrier to the accessibility of this movie. Guillermo del Toro certainly has proven himself as a master of the fanciful. He showed this sense of dark whimsy in Pan's Labyrinth, and again in Hellboy II.

The movie is centered on an ancient war between humans and elves. Centuries ago a peace had been reached, and this truce hung in a delicate balance for all that time. Jump forward to present day, where Elf Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) has grown tired of being relegated to the shadows of the world. He wants to gain access to a mythical and indestructible Golden Army. The only thing standing between him and control is his twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton) and the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. For those that didn't see the first one (which is not required to understand this movie) the Bureau consists of our hero, Hellboy (Rom Perlman), Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, and voiced by David Hyde Pierce), and is led by the bureaucratic and perpetually unhappy Tom Manning (Jeffery Tambor). As well as a slew of unimportant Men in Black. These forces now must face off, as usual, to save humanity.

The strongest part of this movie is the art direction. The creature design is nothing short of spectacular. This is demonstrated perfectly in the design of Wink, a monstrous troll, and the ravenous "tooth fairies" towards the beginning. Even the most annoying character, Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane), the ethereal gas housed in a fish bowl domed body was interestingly designed. The character, a proponent of protocol, was brought in to reign in Hellboy's renegade nature. The Krauss character in general was simply cringe worthy. Hellboy and Abe Sapien, naturally, were very well designed. The hours they must have spent in makeup each day were well worth it.

Hellboy takes a more sarcastic approach to superheros. This smartass attitude was touched on in Iron Man, but is perfectly embodied in this franchise. Hellboy is the hero with an "I don't care what happens" outlook. He'll do what he wants, let his anger get the better of him, and let his love for Liz cloud his judgement. The movie touches on the themes of the public turning on the hero. Because of his disregard for property, he's not the most popular. This is important, because it adds depth to an otherwise mono-dimensional character.

The best scenes in the movie were actually towards the beginning. We get a telling of the history of the war between Elves and humans. This sequence is completely animated, and the characters are represented by what appear to be wooden puppets. This part, along with most of the movie, is just visually stunning. The plot is fairly paint by numbers, but it really is a visual work of art.


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