Red, Liz and Abe are back. In Guillermo del Toro’s first movie since the award-winning ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ the big red guy with the Right Hand of Doom again does battle with the evil folks trying to rule the world.
As the film opens, John Hurt, again playing the scientist who found and raised Hellboy, is telling the young pre-hero a bedtime story about an army of machines that do the bidding of whomever owns a magical crown. After the last insurrection, the three parts of the crown are scattered all over the world. We then flash forward to the present day, where one piece of the crown is going up for auction. And Prince Nuada has returned to regain what he believes is rightly his.
That’s where Hellboy, Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman come in. After the Prince vaporized the auction bidders, it’s up to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense try to clean up the mess. Abe comes across the legend of the golden army and, after a new project leader, Johan Krauss comes aboard, the team is off to find the rest of the crown before the Prince does.
What makes both Hellboy movies so interesting is the themes that writers del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola bring to the story. In the original film, Hellboy, Liz and Abe all had to deal with the fact that they didn’t fit in to normal society. Of course, that feeling carries over into the new film, but there are twists added. Early on, Liz finds out that she’s pregnant with Hellboy’s child. Meanwhile, the titular character is dealing with the concept of being something unique in a world of similar things. By killing off the Prince and his minions, he’s exterminating the only thing of its kind. Is he killing them because their motives don’t fit with the rest of society, or are they truly evil creatures?
‘The Golden Army’ also focuses on love. What does it mean to love somebody? How do you show somebody you love them? And what are you willing to do for that love? It is questions like these that make the Hellboy films standout head and shoulders above most of the comic book movies. Yes, ‘Ghost Rider,’ I’m looking at you.
What also makes these films work so well is their incorporation of legends and tall tales. While most films create their own world for their characters to inhabit, Mignola first in the books and now in the film, works in popular lore into the stories in new, interesting and exciting ways. This isn’t a film by itself. This is a project truly made on the shoulders of giants.
With this latest film, Guillermo del Toro takes another step forward in his storytelling mastery. All of his films are uniquely him and ‘Hellboy II’ is no exception. And yet, del Toro does it in such a way that is not showy or flashy. He is so focused on the story that all the incredible and amazing characters weave perfectly into this fabric. His vision is his own and it is instantly recognizable.
‘Hellboy II,’ is a summer movie, but there’s something underneath the horns, pointed tail and large rock-like right hand; it’s got heart to spare. -Sam