Gullimero Del Toro’s sophomore crack at Mike Mignola’s crimson skull cracker is somewhat of a bittersweet experience. Sweet because with the triumph of Pan’s Labyrinth under his belt means that Del Toro has the clout and confident to go the whole hog with his scrumptious gothic-acid visuals and tell a more involved story. Bitter, because the enormous and continued success of The Dark Knight which had been released barely a month prior meant that Hellboy 2: The Golden Army was utterly steamrollered at the box office.
It’s an utter shame because it’s quite possibly one of the greatest comic book/fantasy sequels ever made and fits in nicely with the kind of blockbuster films James Gunn and Taika Waititi have been putting out to great acclaim and chunky box office.
The plot is fairly tale schlock, a dark elf prince wishes to take a metaphorical dump on the truce between the supernatural and human kind and awake the Golden Army, an indestructible, steam beltching battalion of egg-shaped automatons to wipe us from the face of the earth. It’s down to the forces of the BPRD to stop this from happening but both Hellboy and the aquatic Abe Sapien have other problems to contend with. Namely their love lives.
It’s not the story Del Toro is telling that makes HB2:TGA sing but instead how he’s telling it. Make up effects, costume design, set design, character design, prosthetics, CGI, everything comes together to make a film so visually spectacular that it in some cases (the mind blowing Troll Market) it even surpasses Return Of The Jedi and Labyrinth (two classic gold-standard fantasy monster movies) for sheer other worldly detail.
EVERY character has something going on be it lumbering blue hench-troll Mr. Wink, the melodramatic tooth fairies, or the genuinely haunting spectre of Death with it’s ritcus grin and eyeball encrusted wings and EVERY creature has a separate personality, even the huge Godzilla sized Forest God qho puts the mental in Elemental. Multiple viewing are required, nay, demanded, to soak up all the luscious detail Del Toro infuses with every frame.
The cast, usually buried beneath a ton of latex, mostly shine. Pearlman, always perfect casting, enfuses the rebellious Hellboy with the confusion of having his first relationship – “I would die for her,” he states of his feelings for fire starter Liz Sherman, “But she also wants me to do the dishes…”, likewise Abe (now this time rightfully played AND voiced by Doug Jones) has had his gilled head turned by an Elven Princess and has no idea how to deal with his feelings. The scene where both get drunk and talk about it while singing to Barry Manilow is a pre-Guardians Of The Galaxy highlight of touching lunacy and it further source of confusion as to why no one brings up this movie more.
Of the newcomers to the series, German, diving suit wearing, smoke man Johaan Krauss (voiced by Family Guy’s Seth Mcfarlane) is an uptight winner whereas Luke Goss’ tormented Elvish prince, while effective, is mostly a cut and paste of what he did in Del Toro’s Blade II.
The REAL tragedy of Hellboy 2’s failure is, of course, the much mooted, yet never made Hellboy 3 for which fans pinned after for years and now is essentially deceased thanks to the upcoming reboot.
More confident in character, action and storytelling than it’s predecessor (flashback told in carved, rustic models is sublime), Hellboy 2 is a lost gem of a visual kaleidoscope of monsters and mayhem that like it’s titular golden troops truly deserves to be rediscovered by audiences weaned on big budget weirdness thanks to Guardians Of The Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok and Aquaman.
This is one Army that you need to re-enlist in.