Constant readers will know that I am something of a Guillermo del Toro fan having lapped up both Cronos and Pan’s Labyrinth. It will therefore come as a bit of a surprise that I didn’t manage to see Hellboy 2 in the cinema and I can assure you, having now seen it on DVD, I wish I had made it to the picturehouse.
Hellboy 2 picks up Hellboy’s story a short while after the first film. Hellboy, Abe and Liz are now once again a functioning team at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense where they continue to cause headaches for the government by appearing on camera at every opportunity. Liz and Hellboy’s relationship is running into the usual now-we’re-living-together issues such as the place being a mess, the cats getting everywhere, important secrets being kept and being the destined to end the world.
Meanwhile, Prince Nuada, the son of the King of the Elves, has been hunting down the pieces of his father’s crown in order to dethrone him and take control of the Golden Army and lead the creatures of myth against mankind. Why? Because mankind is evil, corrupt and has forced the creatures of myth into cracks of the world. There’s a problem: his twin sister Nuala has run into the world of men carrying with her a piece of the crown and Nuada has inadvertently drawn the attention of Hellboy in his attempts to capture another piece. Hellboy is all that stands between mankind and The Golden Army.
Although openly hailed as a tribute to Hellboy comic creator, Mike Mignola, there are plenty of del Toro’s own traits on display here. Although less explicit than in Pan’s Labyrinth there is a clear reference to del Toro’s oft used theme of humanity being the real monsters and this is shown in a surprisingly effective performance from Luke Goss as Nuada. Nuada is not a straight forward bad guy and in places you find yourself routing for him, realising that he is not actually wrong in his opinion of humanity.
As ever, the artwork and monster effects are spectacularly achieved with del Toro’s team using their trademark mixture of traditional effects makeup and CGI to bring the world of Hellboy alive. The results are gorgeous with a richly realised underworld that is – like much of the best fantasy – worth exploring without even coming onto the plot of the story. Doug Jones shows his usual versatility taking on no less than three roles – one of which I failed to recognise as being him until the second viewing and I think a new drinking game could reasonably be created around “spot Doug” as I suspect he plays another unaccredited role.
Perlman is consistently effective as Hellboy, a role that he seems to have been born to play and Selma Blair makes good use of quite restricted screen time. I found the plot of the film good in the sense it explored the themes I’d come to expect from del Toro but weak in the sense that it didn’t seem to have enough meat for the length of the film. There is a clear set up for subsequent installments in the franchise and certainly this sequel is better than the first film but I suspect the writing will need to be upped a notch to carry it beyond one more film. That is not to say the writing is weak because it isn’t, just that I felt the running time was slightly over-stretching the legs of the idea. I digress.
If you love well crafted fantasy films utilising creative creature effects and intelligent CGI backed up by solid performances then this film is for you. To truly appreciate it I highly recommend the largest TV you can find with the best sound system available and at least two viewings to drink in all the visual detail on display. Like a comic there are layers here and if you only take a way a cool action film then I think you’re missing out. A damned good film.