Saturday, July 26, 2008

Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army (****)

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language
111 minutes
Like its 2004 predecessor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is some kind of a bizarre, visionary masterpiece, a film of such daring innovation, visual artistry, and undeniably visceral entertainment, that to see it is to witness the most downright entertaining superhero sequel since Spider-Man 2. Its mix of sarcastic wit, exciting action sequences, and out-of-this-world characters are all spun around with precise accuracy by director Guillermo Del Toro, one of the finest working directors in the business.
Last time we saw Hellboy, he and his muse, fiery Liz Sherman, were hooking up after defeating a warlock from Hellboy’s past. Now they are married, complete with the problems that accompany any type of marriage, especially one between a demon from hell and a girl who controls fire. Despite their differences, they really are the perfect match, and their romance is surprisingly resonant throughout the picture (such as the poignant scene when Liz tells him she’s pregnant). There is also a new member in the team, Johann Krauss, a ghost of a man in a big, old scuba diving suit. They are soon thrown into a plot only known to Hellboy as a myth, a bedtime story that his father told him as a child—that the legendary Prince Nuada, a traitor to his people, has returned for the pieces to a magical crown that enables him to control The Golden Army, an unstoppable force of gold-plated baddies.
The film, while funny and exciting, is also oddly touching and quite beautiful at times. There is a sequence involving a jumping bean that turns out to be a tree god, and while the scene is every bit as exciting as anything that has come out this year, the aftermath results in the most singularly awe-inspiring moment of the film.
As far as performances go, Ron Perlman is virtuoso as the title character, Selma Blair utterly luminous as Liz, Doug Jones quietly brilliant and understated as webbed Abe, Seth MacFarlane (known to “Family Guy” fans as Peter) strangely authoritative as new guy Johann Krauss, and Luke Goss slimy and believable as bad guy Prince Nuada.
If a third installment is released in 2013, as rumored, then I welcome it. The franchise is already wonderfully successful, and if the third is as good, this will be one spellbinding trilogy. At this point, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is one of this summer’s best entries.

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