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Hellboy 2: the Golden Army

"That film was just an endless series of weird images," Djae said. "I feel like I've been assaulted."

"Yeah," I replied, "I liked it too."

Of course, the point is he didn't like Hellboy 2: the Golden Army, but he didn't like it for the reasons I did.

In case you haven't seen, or heard, of Hellboy, the film features the red skinned, good natured devil, Hellboy, who with his shaved down horns and huge left hand, was brought into the world by evil Nazi scientists during World War 2. As is the way of things, he was saved by Americans, and has since then become a field agent for a secret organisation that deals with weird things. His girlfriend, for example, can set herself on fire, and his best friend is half fish, half man, and can--for reasons that have to do with plot more than anything else--sense important narrative points. In the first film, the trio stopped a plot by old Nazis to rule the world, or some shit like that, and in the second film, the trio, accompanied now by the spirit of a German in an old diving suit, now attempt to stop a faerie prince from raising the fabled golden army and waging war on humanity. You shouldn't be too shocked to learn that they do this.

Truthfully, I enjoyed the film, but not for anything that I recounted above. The plot is cookie cutter stuff, and the resolutions featuring certain characters are pretty easy to pick. In fact, if you can't pick how the ending is going to go down five minutes into the film, it's entirely possible that you've been lobotomised without consent. What the film does have going for it, however, is an endless parade of cool imagery, each of themselves forming a narrative climax that ends in Hellboy fighting on clockwork cogs while surrounded by thousands of golden, steampunk robots. Before that, there will be old gods, tooth faeries, legless trolls, and what could possibly be an angel, though I was not entirely sure about that. It had angelic wings, though they were black, and had a dozen eyes, real eyes, but so that the imagery was more like a peacock than that of a dove. Still, it was pretty damn cool, and I respected the design of everything weird in the film.

It was good that I did, too, because if I wasn't there enjoying the images, I would have had very little to get behind. Del Toro's direction is unobtrusive at best, but he can't resist having Ron Perlman, who plays Hellboy, pose every ten to fifteen minutes for a moment of 'cool'--which, of course, after the first time, get a little annoying, even if, in one of the more amusing scenes, Perlman is allowed to play it for humour. At times, likewise, Del Toro's pacing is a little off, especially when it comes to Johann, the aforementioned German spirit in a diving suit, and his plot developments are often given short treatment. Hellboy's desire to be public, for example, is never given that much weight, and the prince and princess's connection could have done, I thought, with more exploration. Hellboy's relationship with Liz (played by Selma Blair) is another weak point, with it neither being particularly believable or interesting, and with an annoying family values content to it that I could have done without. The final moments in the film, likewise, could have done with some building towards--a few extra scenes here and there would have been nice, and which, perhaps, might exist in a different version. I'm annoyed that I think that might be the case, however.

Still, I dug the imagery, and that carried me, as did Perlman, who at fifty eight, is quite at ease in a suit of red and carries the film amiably with the good natured charm that he displayed in the first film.

(Cross posted at benpeek.com.)