Saturday, 5 March 2016

Hellboy 2

Although I was looking forward to seeing Hellboy II: The Golden Army, writer–director Guillermo del Toro’s sequel to the wondrous Hellboy (my choice as movie-of-the-year in 2004), it failed to fulfil high expectations as fantasy adventure by one of the genre’s brightest auteurs. There are many dazzling scenes in the picture, but they seem diffuse and scattershot, like proverbial diamonds in the rough.

As the comic-book superhero that looks monstrous but is a big softie at heart, Ron Perlman is a fine actor in a difficult role. Hellboy’s fire-starter girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair), settles, perhaps too comfortably, into her mildly spiky role as sidekick/ romantic foil, while the other B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) mainstay, amphibian dude Abe (Doug Jones), undergoes more significant changes in this picture than his team-mates on the special ops task force.  

Since tackling apparently–Lovecraftian creatures in the climax of the original movie, Hellboy and his BPRD comrades – now including new agent, Johann Krauss, literarily a gas-man, living in an airtight protective suit – are confronted by generally less formidable, certainly less impressive, antagonists.
An elf prince, determined to activate golem-like indestructible robots for conquest of the human world, is hardly a step up, in the super-villain stakes, from ‘cosmic gods’ that presented such a fearsome challenge in Hellboy. This follow–up movie only works in fleeting moments of ineffable charm or subtle levels detailing marvellous curiosities, and such incidental delights provide insufficient entertainment with positive value to offset the damning, often crippling faults.  

With his fiery red skin and devilish horns, it’s rather saddening to note that Liz, and the authoritarian human influence of work under the control of BPRD rules and regulations (now Hellboy kowtows to manager Tom, played by distinctly unimposing Jeffrey Tambor), have diminished the stature of the powerful thing from hell, who should not be given direct orders from ordinary mortals. Here, the protagonist seems practically domesticated, in comparison to the untamed creature of that first outing. A Barry Manilow sing-along, and restraints on violent conduct by the overseer assigned to Hellboy’s official missions, has made the demon cuddly.  
BPRD in Hellboy 2

It’s all very well designing wicked tooth fairies, a forestry apocalypse, a magical troll marketplace, and having Irish landmark Giant’s Causeway as home to actual giants, but an exciting superhero movie requires more than just CGI wallpaper and slapstick comedy. The big problem with Hellboy II is that it lacks any convincing menace. We just know Red can squish the baddies, easily. And now they’re relatively bloodless, so he doesn’t even get to crush them to gory pulp. Where’s the fun in that?
This review is from BLACK STATIC #8 (December 2008).
Here's a list of what I also reviewed in that issue:
The Zombie Diaries
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!
Days Of Darkness
Tokyo Zombie
Death Note
Death Note 2: The Last Name
Strait Jacket
While She Was Out
One Way
Reeker 2: No Man’s Land
Creepshow III
Santa's Slay
The Tattooist

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