Friday, July 19, 2013

Guillermo del Toro Retrospective: HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY

Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor
Rated: PG-13

And after Pan's Labyrinth we're right back to Hellboy.  This sequel was commissioned shortly after the first's release and supposed to be put out in 2006, but Revolution Studios went out of business, putting the sequel on hold.  Universal studios picked up a backdeal on Revolution's films and put this one forward.  del Toro always wanted to at least craft a trilogy out of the Hellboy character and here was a second stab at it.  The film expands upon and improves the universe set in the first film.  It feels more comfortable with itself and makes for a much better film than the first go-round.

Guillermo del Toro infuses his fairy tell story making into the world of the BPRD and its a natural fit.  The world building and amount of creatures is exponentially greater in The Golden Army.  The Ghostbuster aspects I mentioned in the first piece are here and Hellboy and the team get to do even more investigative work in this film.  Its very much a detective story for a good portion of the film.  Guillermo even gets to bring to life his own version of a Mos Eisley Cantina scene.  And even moreso than the first film, practical effects and puppetry litter every frame.  I believe Guillermo said 80-85% of what you see on screen was practical effects.  CG was mostly used to clean up some effect work and the usual enhancement of sets.
Also upping the ante are the action sequences.  And many of them are quite memorable.  Hellboy vs The Forest God may be the centerpiece of all, but every fight he takes on seems to be a film highlight.  The fight against Wink beforehand is no slouch either.  And on top of this mission, there's plenty of other character arcs going on around it.  Hellboy reveals himself to the world and deals with the fallout of his fame.  Liz is preganant.  Abe falls in love.  There's a lot going on in this film and it never once feels bloated.
Need a second to just say - the Angel of Death!  Holy shit what a creature.  The thing is scary as hell and just wicked.  I love it.  Guillermo's designs just so damn amazing.  I'd love to see he do a rebirth of a classic monster or maybe just keeping making his own.  I dunno.  This thing just needed its own section.

As opposed to David Hyde Pierce resuming his role as the voice of Abe Sapien, Doug Jones is allowed fully display his character by providing his own vocals this time out.  However, there's a new character physically played by someone and voiced by another.  But this one is a total scene stealer.  Seth MacFarlane breathes ectoplasm into Johann Krauss.  The character is an absolute annoyance of the best kind.  He provides a lot of the laughs without trying, just being his authoritative self.  One would hope if a Hellboy 3 ever happens (I'm gonna blame The Hobbit movies if one never does, you with me Tommy Valdez?). 
Speaking of humor, there's an absolute centerpiece to this whole film revolving around The Carpenters' "Can't Smile Without You" that absolutely steals this movie away.  Even the biggest snot has to get a laugh out of it.  Watching Hellboy and Abe Sapien drunk talking about girls should have most people needing a box of tissues.  I don't care who you are, that shit is funny.  And reprising the song in the end...bravo!

Hellboy II had Guillermo del Toro's highest opening weekend ever.  Any normal summer time, his film with this success probably would have crossed $100 million.  Hellboy II did make some decent change, but sadly its mostly the answer to the trivia question "What film was released the week before The Dark Knight?" That's right, Hellboy II's audience and any general folk that might have been curious were dragged away the following weekend never to return.  Its a shame, because this is such a damn good film in its own right.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army was a great experience for me theatrically.  Scott Mendelson and a I saw it opening night with a Q&A with Guillermo following the film (making up for us choosing Q&A for Perfume w/ Tom Tykwer-who didn't show-over Pan's Labyrinth w/ Guillermo).  He said he had 2 rules, 1-can't answer questions about The Hobbit cuz he hadn't started and 2-no questions about Mimic.  The man is a terrific historian on film and I could listen to him go on and on for hours.  If you have any of his films, listen to the commentaries.  Watch the bonus material.  If you own any of the Alfred Hitchcock films featuring discussions with him...WATCH them.  If you love film, he's one of the best to sit back and listen to talk.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is one of my all time favorite comic book/superhero/whatever you classify it movies of all time.  Without thinking I can say its Top 5 for me.  I love this movie.  Its got tons of creature feature stuff, some great action set pieces, , character depth and payoffs, genuinely funny comedy and it just flat out rocks.  I hope and wish for a 3rd Hellboy, but if this is what I'm left with, than I feel fortunate.  This film is greatness, and one of the films from the 00's i find myself reaching for a lot.  I could ramble on and on about this one, there's stuff i didn't even touch upon (umm, the main villain and his sister?)...but i just say...go watch it!

Next Time:  It'll be tough...but I'll rank Guillermo del Toro's filmography.

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