Racking up a successful sum of money at the box-office this past summer, Hellboy II: The Golden Army brings us back to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. After the first Hellboy turned out to be one of the sleeper hits of 2004, it was only a matter of time until we got the sequel. And boy, what a sequel. Better than its predecessor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is probably one of the most unique movies of the year, one that’s littered with imaginative characters and innovative designs. It’s a movie that is undeniably a feast for the eyes, but what about for the mind? Is the story any good? Well, we’ll take a closer look at the story once we get this pesky synopsis out of the way!
After an ancient truce existing between humankind and the invisible realm of the fantastic is broken, hell on Earth is ready to erupt. A ruthless leader who treads the world above and the one below defies his bloodline and awakens an unstoppable army of creatures. Now, it’s up to the planet’s toughest, roughest superhero to battle the merciless dictator and his marauders. He may be red. He may be horned. He may be misunderstood. But when you need the job done right, it’s time to call in Hellboy (Ron Perlman). Along with his expanding team in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development—pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe (Doug Jones) and protoplasmic mystic Johann—the BPRD will travel between the surface strata and the unseen magical one, where creatures of fantasy become corporeal. And Hellboy, a creature of two worlds who’s accepted by neither, must choose between the life he knows and an unknown destiny that beckons him.
Like I said, this movie is real treat for the eyes. Director Guillermo Del Toro really let his creative juices flow when it came to directing and creating the world we see here in this movie. I couldn’t even begin to describe some of the characters we see here. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a movie that’s laced with countless imaginative characters, most of them looking more unique and bizarre than the last. But, what about the story itself? Well, it’s a good story, but it’s not as strong as it could have been, and that results in the movie feeling a bit uneven at times.
I suppose where the movie loses it, for me, is when it tries to find an engaging story to match the absolutely stunning visuals. Now, the story isn’t bad, it’s not. But it’s also not great. It services the plot, I suppose, and does what it needs to do. It moves the characters from one part to the next. We get some great character scenes along the way, specifically with the character Abe Sapien, but it seems as though things move along without any real rhyme or reason. They move forward because they need to, for the story, but it never feels natural. And, along the way, we get the standard character conflict, and we get a few here. We’re introduced to a new BPRD member who immediately rubs Hellboy the wrong way, so there’s conflict there. And, Hellboy is having problems with his girlfriend, Liz Sherman, so there’s more conflict there, as well. And, as usual, Hellboy is having problems with the higher-ups at the BPRD which results in a rather public unveiling early in the film which pits the BPRD higher-ups against the agents in yet another conflict.
And, well, conflict is good for a story, don’t get me wrong, but here, it feels like more a plot point. Like it has to be in here in order to keep things engaging. It doesn’t feel natural. Personally, if the movie stuck with the main plot, which itself feels a bit under-developed, then I think we would have had a more natural feeling movie. And given the absolutely amazing visuals in the movie, it’s a shame we don’t spend more time with the main plot of the movie. Del Toro has full realized an imaginative and brilliant film world here. Just look at the Troll Market scene and be prepared to be utterly blown away by the incredible amount of detail and wonder. However, as fully realized as this world is, the script just isn’t up to par. There are a lot of scenes that feel like they’re from other movies entirely, and there’s even a scene at the end of the film that doesn’t make a lick of sense. I won’t go into specific details, but the motivation as to why certain characters make certain choices doesn’t seem convincing to me.
Some may not really notice these little problems with the movie and that’s fine. If the incredible visuals and directing can be enjoyed without taking a few hits from the script, then that is a huge bonus. This movie really does blow the first one away. The first Hellboy was a fun movie but didn’t seem to be anything more than a tease. We got a peak into Hellboy’s world, but just a small one. Here, we are thrown head-first into it, and the movie excels because of that. Del Toro fully immerses us in all the oddities and bizarre antics of the world Hellboy exists in, and it’s utterly fascinating and a wonder to behold.
The movie doesn’t develop the threat enough, resulting in the film’s final battle feeling anti-climactic. The Golden Army doesn’t feel like a credible threat and the main protagonist isn’t developed enough for the audience to really care about this opponent Hellboy is beating down. And that’s because we don’t get enough of that story. I like seeing character development and conflict as much as the next guy, but since it’s so uneven and, at times, forced, it doesn’t help the movie whatsoever. So, what we get is a movie focusing on the wrong things, yet, thankfully, Del Toro is able to fully immerse us in this fantastical world and allows the viewer to just become overwhelmed by it. There’s so much to see and behold, it’s quite amazing. But we don’t get the full story behind it, I believe. Sure, the brilliant prologue at the beginning of the movie brings us up to speed, in a rather clever way, I might add, but it feels like we’re not getting everything, like a heaping of content about this part of the movie is left on the cutting room floor.
I also feel the need to point out, with remaining as spoiler-free as possible, how the script takes some serious leaps in logic, especially in terms to the main villain of the piece. There’s a bunch of really poor choices made throughout the movie, choices that serve to only extend the movie and get the good guys and the bad guys in the same place for the big battle at the end. Some characters make some seriously questionable choices here and make some really stupid moves. Again, I can’t really say more without laying down a lot of spoilers, but the logic problems will come exceedingly obvious as the movie rolls on. The script really could have used more work here, but thankfully the film’s voluptuous eye candy makes it easy to forget the character’s are even speaking.
In some horrible attempt to wrap up what I’m saying, to try and make my thought coherent, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a fantastic movie, but it falls short of greatness. While the visuals, directing, and even some of the character work, coming off as very strong (such as the hilarious scene with Abe and Hellboy sharing a beer), the writing itself falls a bit flat, resulting in an uneven and somewhat misguided film. It seems to jump from plot point to plot point without taking the time to have the movie naturally progress from one part to the next, resulting in poor logic leaps and bizarre character antics. If Del Toro spent just a little more time on the script, then we’d have a flawless movie. But hey, that doesn’t mean this movie is a waste of time, it isn’t! It’s a great movie with amazing visuals and a good, if under-developed, story.
Overall, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an enjoyable movie, but one that could have been better. Like I just said, that doesn’t mean this is a terrible movie. It’s not at all, quite the opposite, but I feel that there’s something missing from this movie. Still, it’s a good way to spend two hours, especially with the incredible amount of imaginative characters on display here. The movie can be quite fascinating, and it’s easy to find oneself watching the Troll Market scene once or twice to catch everything. Del Toro has really done an excellent job in bringing this other world to life. There’s so many bizarre creatures here, some creatures that defy explanation, which only makes this otherly world feel all the more tangible. Hellboy II: The Golden Army comes Recommended to own, as it belongs in the collection of any self-professed movie buff. It’ll likely end up at the top of many top ten lists this year, given that it’s one of the most visually imaginative movies of the year.
Universal Home Entertainment has released Hellboy II: The Golden Army in a three-disc special edition, similar to their release of The Incredible Hulk back on October. The three-disc set is released in the standard hinged-flap Amaray case to hold the discs, though the Digital Copy Disc is packaged in a white disc sleeve and placed with the inserts. The cardboard slipcase features a really snazzy lenticular images that, when moved, morphs the live-action Hellboy in the comic book version. It looks really cool.
On the inside, the found the audio and video transfer to be really well put together for this release. The audio mix, particularly during the “Tooth Fairy” sequence is really amazing. The speakers really come alive as teeny beasts zoom through the speakers in every direction. It’s an aggressive mix without coming across as overwhelming, providing a really immersive quality. The video, thankfully, is strong for this release. Sharpness and detail are solid, though some very minor pixelation is present, especially in the darker scenes. Regardless, the film looks absolutely clean and smooth, with no artifacting or ghosting to be found.
The DVD bonus material is surprisingly substantial for this release. The first disc finds a couple of commentary tracks, one with Guillermo Del Toro and another with some of the cast, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Ross and Luke Goss. Next up is the “Troll Market Tour,” a closer look at the incredible sequence from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Here we get a close look at how the location was creation, set and character design, and how some of the elements came about. The first disc wraps up with an animated comic, six deleted scenes, and the standard pre-menu trailers. The second disc contains an incredible feature-length documentary that is a must-see for fans of the movie. This 157-minute documentary takes an in-depth look into the making of the movie. The documentary, called “In Service of the Demon,” takes an incredible look at the various stages of the film’s production, focusing on aspects big and small. Given the relatively low budget for this movie, the documentary looks at some of the creative side-stepping that had to be done in order to pull off some of the more effect-heavy sequences. Really great stuff here, probably one of the more enjoyable and thorough documentaries in recent memory. The second disc wraps up with a look, and commentary, at the storyboards for the first scene of the movie, the director’s notebook, a gallery, poster gallery, poster concept gallery and DVD-ROM script. As mentioned earlier, a digital copy of the film is included on the third disc.
Fans of Hellboy II: The Golden Army will really like the plethora of content here, specifically the 157-minute documentary on the film’s production. A very detailed and inspired look at one of the most visually impressive movies of the year. It’s a great Special Edition release for a really enjoyable movie. Again, to just reiterate what I said above, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a film that just falls short of greatness,. The script just needed a bit more work put into it, as far as I’m concerned, but that’s no reason to deny yourself the absolutely amazing visual experience that movie provided. Whether it’s the brilliant opening sequence, or the “Tooth Fairy” segment, or the Elemental battle midway through the movie, there’s so much visual stimulation for the eyes. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a visual treat and an impressive Special Edition release, one that comes Recommended to check out when this title hits shelves.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army smashes onto DVD and Blu-ray on November 11th, 2008.