Saturday, August 09, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I DID catch Hellboy 2 when it opened and enjoyed it alot. It went in some different directions than the comic mega movies that surrounded it, but that's what made it refreshing. The Hellboy movies in my opinion are only loosely based on the comics, pulling the core concepts and characters into the theatrical realm. But how that's done is something we rarely get to see.

Guillermo Del Toro is a cinematic visionary-- but I don't say that in the way of some overused adulation. I mean it literally, where here is a man who has a specific vision for what he wants to put on film and executes it beautifully. By doing so he begins to create his own version of the Hellboy mythos, not that what Mignola has done in book form could ever really be replicated in another medium. There are so many great things to watch on screen, and it comes in a steady stream of the bizarre and fantastic. And what's so great about it all is that it filled me with the thoughts of all the great fantasy movies they don't seem to make anymore. Labyrinth, Legend, Dark Crystal, Hawk the Slayer, Willow, Neverending Story, Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits (all from the 80's coincidentally, I bet there's some sort of socio-economic connection there). Hellboy 2 is packed solid, with virtually no wasted space. The shots are wide and long when they should be, then close and personal to bring it home. Everything from the costumes to the creatures to the sets is pure eye candy.

Prior to this Del Toro brought us Pan's Labyrinth, which is also an amazing looking film, but it's matched there by dread and bleakness. Hellboy 2 is fun and lively wrapped around moments of thought and pathos, and at times sheer wackiness. Yea... I probably could have done without the Barry Manilow, but in the end that is just part of the oddity of it all. The story behind resurrecting the Golden Army is solid and awesome to watch come to fruition. The action sequences are balls-out, something I wasn't expecting at all. The last fight scene between Prince Nuada and Hellboy is amazing to watch, I hadn't felt that sense of unexpected, wide-eyed awe of a duel probably since Darth Maul's showdown in Phantom menace.

The cast brings the characters alive, clearly much more at ease in their roles since the first film. As Hellboy, Pearlman keeps his wit and aplomb balanced keenly with an outsider's self consciousness and need to be accepted. I was also happy to see much more of Abe Sapien, well 'cause he's just awesome. Doug Jones even wins his own voice back this time around. Selma Blair is always someone I like to see show up, tho her character Liz definitely seemed to be short changed, waffling between shrill crow and all-around second banana. The biggest treat for me was Luke Goss' Prince Nuada, who's character I just wanted more and more of. Tho the title says otherwise, I say he was the real star of the movie.

Hellboy 2 is way better than the first in all these respects, both in story and how we see it told. I hope its success is an opening for more great fantasy movies to come.

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