Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Hellboy II: The Golden Army 2008
It had been a long while since I had seen this movie. I actually bought it on Blu-Ray before I even started this site and had not gotten around to watching it again until now, and that’s a real shame because this is such a gorgeous and amazing movie. It has so many things that are very different from the first movie, but what it does keep is the sense of fun and the fantastic visuals. What the first film did for the Cthulhu mythology, this movie does with a completely different set of mythology. Not only that, but it gives many of the characters extra depth, there aren’t really any bad guys, there’s a lot more moral ambiguity and really explores the grey areas of what Hellboy and the BPRD does. And mixed in through all of that are some amazing action setpieces.
Pretty much the entire cast from the first Hellboy is back, with the exception of Agent Meyers who I thought was the weak link in the first movie anyway. Also, Abe Sapien is voiced by Doug Jones who played him physically in the first movie but was dubbed over. Even John Hurt returns in an early flashback as Professor Broom. And new to the BPRD gang this time around is Seth MacFarlane voicing the gasbag Johann Krauss. Even after I learned that Mr. Family Guy himself was doing the voice, I couldn’t tell it was him, it’s such a different voice than any of the characters I’m used to hearing from him on his own show, but it works so well with the rest of the cast.
One thing I think was touched on a lot more in this movie is a real mix of genres. In one of the early scenes, there is a distinct horror feel to it, or at least horror/comedy with all of the tooth fairies. They are cute little pixie looking creatures, but they stalk the team and violently kill a couple of their members. There’s obviously a large fantasy influence with all the mythological creatures, and yet it’s all still in dark fantasy territory. There’s also a great deal of serious dramatic moments with the villain’s backstory and Hellboy’s struggle between wanting to be accepted in the human world, and yet now finding out about this hidden fantastical world where he would fit in perfectly, and yet with the BPRD he is tasked to destroy most of these creatures to protect the world he doesn’t fit into.
The visuals of this movie are much more detailed, vibrant, and just plain beautiful in some cases when compared to the first movie. There is obviously still a heavy use of practical effects over CGI and it really helps sell the realistic vision of these fantastical creatures. Not only that, but when CGI is used, it blends very well with the real effects that were used on set. The Troll Market is the perfect example of this, there are so many imaginative creatures wondering around, and most of them barely even get but a moment of screen time, and yet you can tell that tons of detail work was put into every single one of the creatures there. Especially the creature with the cathedral on his head and the giant troll Wink. It’s also pretty amazing that Wink’s mechanical fist is nearly all practical effects. It could really shoot and retract on set, and the hand could mechanically move. Later on in the movie, the Angel of Death is another fantastic piece reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s last movie Pan’s Labyrinth.
Then there’s the main antagonists in the movie, Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala. Nuada is the one trying to awaken the Golden Army while his sister is trying to stop him. They are also connected to each other, what happens to one, happens to the other. It’s an interesting connection and it makes for a few great story points within the movie. Nuada is an interesting character with a singular focus during the movie, and yet there’s also a hint that he does care about the fate of the non-humans working for the BPRD. I think one of the best scenes to illustrate that is when he unleashes the plant elemental on the city, and his discussion with Hellboy as he hesitates to destroy the last of its kind.
The action sequences in this movie are some of the best choreographed fight scenes I’ve seen in a while. While most of the original Hellboy focused on a lot more of Hellboy’s brute strength and only had a few brief flourishes of bladework with Kronen, Nuada is a master swordsman which leads to some breathtaking fights in this movie. Not only that, but in the final fight, Hellboy also gets a sword and manages to combine his usual brute force tactics with the style and finesse of wielding a blade.
I haven’t even gotten into the emotional relationships built on in this movie. Early on, we learn that Liz is pregnant with Hellboy’s child at the same time that they are having relationship difficulties. And when the princess meets up with Abe Sapien, they turn out to have an immediate connection that becomes an almost childlike crush for the socially inexperienced Abe, and allows for some amusing brotherly bonding between him and Hellboy. In the first movie, it was obvious that the members of BPRD were longtime friends, but in this movie it becomes obvious that they are family. I imagine I won’t let as much time lapse before I revisit this movie again as it reminds me how much I enjoyed it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.