Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 2008
Director(s): Guillermo Del Toro
Writer(s): Guillermo Del Toro (screenplay) / Guillermo Del Toro and Mike Mignola (story) / Mike Mignola (comic book)
Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro
Editor(s): Bernat Vilaplana
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Alexander, Luke Goss, Seth MacFarlane, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor and John Hurt
Synopsis: The mythical world starts a rebellion against humanity in order to rule the Earth, so Hellboy and his team must save the world from the rebellious creatures (IMDB).
Superhero movies prior to 2004, for the most part, depended on the large pre-built fanbase from the comic books. That’s why the studios were making movies mainly from the big names like Batman, Superman, X-Men and the early 2000’s box office juggernaut Spider-Man. In came Del Toro riding his dark horse (joke for the comic book fans) off his success from Blade 2 and decided to make Hellboy, which became the perfect marriage between horror and superhero movies. Four years later, Del Toro somehow delivered a better product, making that original marriage look like a high school romance. Also, it turns 10-years-old this year and why not talk about it.
Golden Army picks back up not too long after the events of the original. Hellboy and his team is established and working among the shadows of the night on any paranormal case the government encounters. This makes Hellboy yearn for the outside world, for recognition and to be loved by the masses. This gives Hellboy a great story arc as he grows as a… human. He learns that his line of work isn’t about the fame or fortune, its about saving the world, even if the world resents you, perfectly highlighted with his destruction of the crown and letting go of the army.
Quick note: Danny Elfman’s score captures beautifully the balance of horror and super hero tones. It’s both dark and drenched in heart pumping tones that highlight the action scenes.
If you have read my review of The Shape of Water, you know that I’m an unashamed Del Toro fan. Everything from his camera placement, his pacing and his tone are things I truly love in movies. But, the highlight of all his movies, from the best to the worst, is the creature and set design. Del Toro always makes sure to have the perfect blend of CGI and practical effects, creating a long-lasting visual esthetic only comparable to his other moves. Hellboy (Ron Perlman), Abe (Doug Jones) and Johann (Luke Goss) are all makeup the actors wore on set, making their interactions with the other actors feel real and not like the other actors are staring at a tennis ball.
Quick note: our main villain, Prince Nuada, is of elf descent, and his makeup manages to be familiar yet unique. We all know elves to have pointy ears and long hair thanks to Lord of the Rings, but Del Toro and his team put simple yet distinguishing features (skin complexity, eye color and attire) that made his elves stand out.
While all the hero’s makeup is great, the highlight of the entire movie, for me, is the Angel of Death. After Hellboy faced off with Prince Nuada, he is left on the brink of death. The team takes him to visit the Angel of Death, also played also by Doug Jones, to bargain for his life. Every single detail of this scene screams Del Toro. We find the angel in a circular room filled with “empty” jars. He is in the middle pushing spheres around him completely ignoring the fact that Hellboy walked in. Once he realizes who is in the room, he perks up and reveals his face to both the audience and the team. He doesn’t have eyes on his face, yet he has them all over his wings and… I don’t know why I’m “trying” to describe this unique creature. Picture below.
What is revealed during this scene is pivotal to both Hellboy and Liz. The angel reveals that he is destined to destroy the world and it’s up to Liz to save the world in the end or save Hellboy now. This brings up the question of destiny and free will. Do we really hold our own fate in our hands or is there a pre-determined outcome no matter what we do? Hellboy was destined to destroy the world, but after being raised by humans he fell in love with them and now constantly fights for their safety. He is also about to become a father with Liz, changing his outlook on the world. Is that enough to override his pre-determined destiny? I guess we will never find out because Del Toro didn’t get his third movie and we all got robbed.
Quick note: The movie isn’t perfect, none are. Some of the CGI didn’t hold up perfectly and the voice over doesn’t synch 100% of the time with the moving lips. But, my biggest qualm is that some of the fight scenes are speed up in post to make the movements and hits faster. It’s a bit annoying considering how great of a stunt man Luke Goss is.
Hellboy: The Golden Army takes the original and builds on the relationships and the world of the first movie, taking the audience on unexpected journey (joke for the Hobbit fans). Ron Perlman once again is the perfect Hellboy and Luke Gross serves as a formidable foe with a relatable motivation. The score, the tone and the visuals are all distinctive traits of Del Toro and I can’t see anybody topping the two movies he delivered for the fans. We never got that third installment and the chance to fully complete his story arc, but at least we have two completely unique superhero movies to revisit whenever we want. Del Toro is why I love movies.
Hellboy: The Golden Army is currently streaming on Netflix. Go watch it.
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