Friday, July 11, 2008

Movie Review - Hellboy II: The Golden Army

There are many aspects of Hellboy II to cover. From the effects to the characters to the overall look of the film. And certainly all of this is important; we'll get to it in due time. But first we must examine first impressions. We must consider six words which sum up what we took away from our experience.

The Hobbit is in good hands.

To say Guillermo del Toro (iD&Di: .64) improved on the original is a waste of breath. This was to Hellboy what X-Men 2 was to X-Men or Spider-man 2 was to Spider-man. And del Toro accomplished this without a single hyphen.

Don't take this as an attack against Hellboy: we enjoyed the first installment well enough. We'd heard that the original was held back by the studio, that del Toro was pressured into including a major human character.

It seems as though this time he wasn't so constrained, and it certainly shows. Humans are pushed to the background. Instead we're left with Hellboy, Abe, Liz, and a new addition, Krauss, who are allowed to shine.

And shine they do. The drab pallet of the first film is replaced with one far more vibrant. Hellboy is now bright red, contrasted to Abe's blue. Meanwhile, the fairy kingdom provides us with a preview of what we might expect to see in The Hobbit.

This next point deserves special attention, as we've a confession to make. As much as we've enjoyed del Toro's previous work, some of us have questioned his ability to manage the kind of vast special effects The Hobbit will require. Sure, he can do simple scenes well: Pan's Labyrinth was breathtaking. But, we wondered, could he expand that into a world? Has he the skill to master a fantastic world and use it as nothing more than a backdrop when necessary?

We didn't expect an answer so soon. Yes, dear reader, he can. The world of Hellboy is not the same as Middle Earth, but that doesn't matter. Faced with a large scale, del Toro doesn't flinch. He creates characters and weaves them into his world. He ignores neither his actors nor the tone, regardless the scope of the effects.

This is the man who is meant to follow in Peter Jackson's (iD&Di: .90) footsteps. And Hellboy II is the proof.

The movie itself is a concoction of two parts concentrated glee, mixed with one part melancholy. It is a joy to watch. Without sacrificing anything, del Toro has created a comic book film that incorporates comedy, action, and wonder - along with a pinch of tragedy. But don't think for a moment that these ingredients clash: this recipe is thoroughly mixed into a coherent work. The elements flow naturally from one to another.

It's not the best movie we've seen this summer: Wall-E currently holds that title. But this is at least as good as Iron Man. It might even be better.

Is the movie perfect? No: no picture is. At times things move too quickly and some events feel contrived. But better that than tedious, which is one thing the movie never becomes.

In The Middle Room, we of course consider relativity when rating a film. There are dozens of movies we might compare this to in several genres. Another comic book movie would be an obvious choice, but we think a less conventional option reflects it better. Whatever the movie looked like, it felt like Ghostbusters. The pure joy of the film, coupled with the comedy and action, brought this to mind.

And as an action/comedy genre, how does Hellboy II stack up? Four and a half stars, we think, though we confess hesitation. Further viewing could one day make us regret withholding that last half a star.

1 comment:

Pat R said...

Hellboy is fun; it's refreshing that he's a superhero but he doesn't take himself too seriously... then he fumbles about like an average guy