DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
May Contain Spoilers!
There’s no doubt that Guillermo del Toro is man of vision and man not to dissimilar from Tim Burton in many respects, though not in a literal one. He has a visual style which lacks compromise when allowed to flourish and here, in the second outing his red anti-hero, del Toro’s vision is weirder than ever.
Hellboy is back, and not with a whimper. This time he is teamed up with the voice talent of Family Guy and Ted’s Seth MacFarlane as Doctor Johann Krauss as well as his usual ensemble, to fight the Golden Army, led by a demonic prince, Nuada, or Luke Goss to his friends.
It is in this goblin-sentric world that del Toro shines, as he takes our heroes into a world more reminiscent of George Lucus’s, Willow, but in a good way, rather than the more grounded comic book settings of recent years. He blends his Dark Horse Comics adaptation with comic book elements and that of some of the darkest fairy tales imaginable, drawing from his previous film, Pan’s Labyrinth to create something quite creepy and unique in the mainstream.
The Golden Army is just one of the fascinating and bold set pieces of a movie which blends a solid sense of humour with some pretty freaky imagery. This is bold story telling, though the plot is a bit thin, and even bolder cinematography.
But it’s the opening scenes from the 1950’s when Hellboy is just that, a boy, being read the story of the Golden Army (neat way to fill in the back story), whilst acting like any other ten-year old boy. The image of a red, demonic creature brushing his teeth and getting caught up in a bed time story is both comical and heartwarming.
It’s this blend that sets these films apart from many other darker comics adapts, as Ron Perlman’s Hellboy is soft on cats, likes his candy bars and TV, loves the dinky but deadly Selma Blair and kicks ass like the bad boy he’s supposed to be. He delivers a fully rounded and fleshed out character, as many do, but I must admit that MacFarlane’s, Doctor Krauss (doing a version of the German fish from American Dad! and a bit of Stewie from Family Guy) is in danger of stealing the show at times, but del Toro quite rightly down-plays the character in the final act, allowing Hellboy to shine.
The film is not perfect by any stretch and I think that the first film has the edge on this slightly, but it is a very good sequel, maintaining the plot and character developments from the first film, and allowing del Toro to play around with his universe and his own vision more, which is not a bad thing but it’s alone to swallow when we’re just not used to it.
I mean at one point, there’s a demon walking around with a model building as part of head! What’s that about? But even though it made me laugh, it was in an affectionate way. Cudos for making a film with vision but did it make the same mistake as Batman Returns, to continue the comparison with Tim Burton?
Burton, who went from a visually stunning Batman to a more Burtonesk and possibly self-indulgent Batman Returns, to the detriment to the plot and possibly the franchise as a whole. Time will tell and if there is a Hellboy III, and then we’ll have to see if this vision continues unabated or is softened for a broader audience.