Hellboy 2

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2008
The Hellboy films were both directed by Guillermo del Toro, and star Ron Perlman as the lead character, a demon who works for a branch of the US Government, fighting supernatural crime. They are based on the stylish comics of Mike Mignola.

I am reviewing Hellboy 2, and not Hellboy 1, simply because the first film seems to me to be a diluted version of the second. It has to set up its premise and introduces a fairly disposable “normal” character to represent the audience, who isn’t present in Hellboy 2. Also, its plot, involving Cthulhu-type monsters and Nazi occultists, is actually more mundane than that of Hellboy 2, and gives del Toro’s visual imagination less chance to shine. For what it’s worth, I think it’s weaker and I’d give it 7/10 on a good day.

So, Hellboy 2. Nuada, an elf prince (Matt Goss, formerly of Blade 2 and the 1980s boy-band Bros) is sick of mankind’s polluting ways and decides to conquer the earth. To do so, he needs the pieces of a crown which will allow him to command the Golden Army, a horde of steampunk robots. However, his twin sister Nuala (Anna Walton) flees into fairyland with part of the crown. It falls to Hellboy and his magical companions to find her and stop Nuada.

Meanwhile, Hellboy himself has domestic problems: he argues continually with his girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair), who can summon flames, and his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) is officious and annoying. Further trouble arises when Hellboy’s friend Abe, a comically intellectual fish-man, takes a shine to Princess Nuala (not that I blame him, but wouldn’t he prefer a fish-woman?).

Firstly, this is a beautiful film. Every scene includes some kind of inventive weirdness: a tooth fairy that resembles a happy mantis and acts like a flying piranha; a giant plant-monster whose death causes vegetation to sprout along the Brooklyn Bridge; a ghostly spirit making dolls’ house furniture in its spare time. Even scenes that should be tired – a Star Wars-type market scene, or a fight with giant CGI robots – are given new life by del Toro’s visuals. It is ironic that this was outperformed by the determinedly glum The Dark Knight.

However, this comes at a price: Matt Goss is good, but Nuada is slightly underwritten, and Liz doesn’t get enough to do. The film clearly doesn’t quite know what to do with Hellboy’s boss, either. The almost-soap-opera nature of the characters’ problems sits oddly with the quest to solve the world, although it does lead to some good humorous scenes. Despite the light and sometimes silly tone, there are a couple of genuinely sad moments.

Hellboy 2 has charm. It lacks the self-importance of other comic-book adaptations, and the characters are actually pretty likeable. No-one is pretentious (at least, no-one who isn't meant to be), and it avoids the hyperactive “wacky guy” characters common in comic-book films, who are usually irritating jerks. Hellboy 2 is definitely at the lighter end of del Toro’s films, but it’s a fun, visually inventive film and I’d recommend it.
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