“The outlandish tone that Hellboy II presents is one that is so unique and fun that you can’t help but love it.”
I mentioned in my last review that Hellboy was a pretty large part of my childhood, but I vividly remember liking the Hellboy II a lot more as a movie; last night I discovered why. Hellboy II: The Golden Army takes place sometime after the first Hellboy film, and follows the B.P.R.D. as they are tasked with solving a mysterious mass-murder that took place during an art auction. This crime leads them on a wild goose-chase eventually landing them in a position where they have to save the world from a giant robotic army.
It is my personal opinion that Hellboy II improves on every single aspect from the first film, but I also acknowledge that it might not be for everyone. The first thing I noticed about Hellboy II was that the film embraced full-on campiness. The first film had a little bit of humour, but for the most part the intention was to ground the story in reality with the B.P.R.D. being a secret and everything; Hellboy II throws that entirely out the window. Where do I begin? First of all, this shift from realism to full-blown fantasy added a lot of fun to the movie. As a matter of fact, Hellboy II is all fun. There isn’t really time to stop and be sad or think about implications of actions, because it is a non-stop joyride. Of course this removes that sense of drama and horror that I praised the first film for having, and this is why I know that Hellboy II won’t be for everybody. One thing that this shift allowed for was increased creativity when dealing with character design and execution. I’m not lying when I say that Hellboy II comes close to rivalling something like Star Wars in terms of the character designs. The sequence of the film that takes place at the Troll Market is one of the most awe-inspiring things that I have seen. This portion of the film is literally jam-packed with these phenomenally designed creatures that fill out this world that is being presented to us. And the best thing is, all of them look wonderful (but we’ll get into that later). Of course the added ‘camp’ isn’t always a good thing, because along with the added fun you get things like a fucking terrible soundtrack. I’m not sure whose idea it was to include a bunch of really dated rock ballads in Hellboy II, but I just want to make it clear that these sequences do not hold up. Not only do they take you out of the movie because instead of a wonderful score you’re hearing some dude sing about fires or some shit, but they also feel so out of place. These musical portions of the film don’t fit in the slightest, and the best (I’m using that term ironically) part is Hellboy II uses un-ironic record scratches. I can’t make this shit up. Hellboy II went so far off the deep-end that it decided to earnestly use record scratches as a “joke”. But if I’m being honest, that was the only bad thing about this movie fully embracing its wild side. One thing I thought was really cool were the scene transitions that almost mimicked those of a comic book. Not only were they well done and creative, but they also reminded you that this movie wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.
So another reason I believe this film is better than the first is because Hellboy II seems more like a Guillermo del Toro production. This point is mainly going to pertain to the creature designs, and how beautiful they were. I already mentioned the Troll Market scene, but let’s talk about it again. The attention to detail present for characters who were on screen for less than a second, in the background no less, was astounding. Once again it showed how much care and love went into this production. This was like the cantina scene is Star Wars; you get a glimpse of everything the universe has to offer. But it didn’t stop there because we have yet to talk about my favourite creatures in all of Hellboy: the Tooth-fairies. These little fuckers are so brilliantly designed, looking like a small human fucked a spider, and executed that I couldn’t help but be in awe when they were on screen. And this transitions perfectly into the effects discussion because Hellboy II also improves upon this aspect. The creatures in Hellboy II are mostly practical, and it shows. The Troll Market scene is almost entirely composed of costumes and puppets, and that is why I love it so much. Once again we get to see the care that went into making the film, not only with the design of these characters but with how they were presented on screen. And because of his fact, they all still look great. 9 years later and I was still amazed by that entire sequence of the film. But, understandably, not everything could be a practical effect so we have to talk about the CGI in the film. Hellboy II features some really solid digital effects, most of which being relatively invisible, but it also features some pretty terrible ones as well. First of all, the baby scene looked like shit. I understand that you can’t actually throw a baby in the air and film it, but maybe don’t show the baby if it is going to be some ‘Son of the Mask’-tier shit. And the biggest gripe I have with the effects in Hellboy II was the decision to make Hellboy’s tail completely digital. Let’s suffice it to say that it did not look good. I can understand some scenes (like the baby scene, again) where the tail had to be digital to interact with the environment, but what about the rest of the time? Could you not have glued a tail to Ron Perlman’s ass and let all of the movement be passive? It would have looked much better, especially for something that is literally a part of your character.
Once again Hellboy II features great performances, but this time they are a little different. Instead of there being this sense of realism with wacky characters, the situations are wacky as well which leads to most characters going off the deep-end. This isn’t a knock, it’s more of an observation. I think that everyone involved did a great job, and I appreciated Hellboy II because it let us see more of the characters that we were introduced to in the first film. It was great seeing Selma Blair play Liz Sherman as something other than a terribly angsty teenager who sulks all of the time. It was great to see Doug Jones play Abe Sapien as a sort of ‘fish out of water’ who has Hellboy of all people show him the ropes of the real world. And it was nice to have Ron Perlman release all of his inhibitions and play Hellboy as ridiculously as he wanted. The introduction of Johann Kraus, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, was also a welcome addition that added to this outlandish tone. MacFarlane didn’t go full-on ‘Family Guy’ with his performance, but he was able to bring a lot of comedy to the character (though mostly he was the straight-man). I also think it is worth mentioning that the score in Hellboy II was also really beautiful. Not only did it set the tone for every scene very well, but it also captured the enchanting, fantasy feel of the movie in its entirety. But really the most important thing I have to mention is that while I love Hellboy II more than the first film, without the first film there would be no Hellboy II. I’m not speaking literally here, I’m saying that without the first film taking the time to introduce us to these characters in a way that wasn’t a complete shift from reality we wouldn’t have gotten an outlandish sequel. The first Hellboy was essentially us dipping our toes in the water. We got a feel for what was possible in this universe, but for the most part it was what we’re used to. Because of this acclimation we were able to dive head-first into the sequel, and receive what is probably one of the best fantasy films I have ever seen.
Overall Hellboy II: The Golden Army takes the ideas form the original Hellboy and runs with them. It runs so far away that you would assume there were ten movies in between the first and the second. Luckily this distance isn’t bad, as a matter of fact it made the experience that much better. The outlandish tone that Hellboy II presents is one that is so unique and fun that you can’t help but love it. The effects and designs are great, the writing is great, the jokes are great, the performances are great; everything about this movie is great.
I give Hellboy II: The Golden Army an A