With the collapse of Revolution Studios in 2006, Universal acquired the rights to the second Hellboy film. “Hellboy II” is a great jumping off point to delve into not just the majesty that is Del Toro’s storytelling, but also his genius in character and creature design as well.
This marks the second week into my journey of everything Guillermo Del Toro. Last week I focused more on a straight forward horror flick with MAMA, and this week I am going to look at something that I think Del Toro does better than anyone else in modern film making and that is creatures and monsters. This is my Sunday with…
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Release Date: July 11, 2008
Run Time: 120 minutes
Starring: Ron Perlman
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Rob’s Score: 8.5/10
“I know, I’m ugly.”-Hellboy
Hellboy II, opens up with the story of an ancient battle between man and mystical creatures, all brought on by man’s greed. As man gains the upper hand, a troll blacksmith offers to build an indestructible army for the Elf King Balor. Pushed into agreeing by his son, Prince Nuada, King Balor agrees to have the golden army built, and he watches as they effortlessly and relentlessly destroy the armies of man. Disheartened by the loss of lives, King Balor creates a treaty with man to end the violence. As by the treaty, man will stay to the cities and the creatures will keep to the forests. In order to maintain the peace, the King breaks his crown that controls the golden army into three pieces, keeping one for himself, giving one to man, and the third went to his daughter, Princess Nuala. Disgusted by the treaty, Prince Nuada leaves, vowing to return and reclaim the glory for his creatures. Fast forward to present day, and Nuada has returned to retrieve the three pieces, stealing man’s piece, killing his father for the second piece and then tracking down his twin sister for her piece. It now falls on Hellboy and the team to stop the extermination of man. Add outside problems such as being unwanted by the same people that they try to protect, a budding romance, a new boss, battling his own nature as well as an unknown pregnancy, can Hellboy keep himself together to save mankind, or will he lead it to destruction? Hellboy II is the sequel to the 2004 film Hellboy, and is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name created by Mike Mignola. Guillermo Del Toro served as writer and producer on this film, along with being the director.
In modern comic book films we usually hear one of two complaints, it is too jokey or kid friendly (Marvel), or it is too dark and serious (DC), Hellboy is the example of when these two things are brought together perfectly. Both Del Toro and Mignola have penned an amazingly fantastic journey for these characters that is not only true to the books, but also stands on its own as an individual tale. Del Toro is right at home creating a fantastical environment that is actually in contrast to the first film; however they work together in perfect harmony. The ability to mesh ancient folklore with modern way of life makes not only this film, but Del Toro a treasure. The film is grand not only in scale but also in scope; from the environments, creatures, and weapons, as the viewer you can’t help but get drawn in from the second it starts. I would even go as far as to say after watching Hellboy II, somewhere deep down inside me hopes that there are places and creatures like this lurking in the shadows of our world!
Aside from the fairy tale esque story in front of us we also see real world problems that almost all of us can relate too. Wanting to be seen and loved, and then the flip side of having those same people turn on you is a fear almost all of us have. The fear of impending parenthood and all the doubts that come with that situation is also very prevalent throughout. Also, the underlining theme of both Hellboy films is that even though he is doing well, he is destined to destroy the world. The fear that we all have of becoming something that scares us is something most of us have felt. Del Toro magically weaves these very real situations into his story and it is completely gripping.
The story is fantastic but the most enthralling aspect of Hellboy II is of course the effects and creature designs. Spectral Motion was the company tasked with bringing these creatures to life, and I have to say they did a terrific job. Filmefex also did the prosthetic and make up work on the film. The character designs by both Mike Mignola and Del Toro are breathtaking in that combining traditional folk lore aspects with modern horror, and the prime example of this has to be the troll market scene, where everyone’s strengths are seen in full effect. However, my favorite creature in the entire film is the Angel of Death; it is both beautifully created, and absolutely haunting at the same time.
This is a very over used term, however, it fits perfectly here; Hellboy is the role that Ron Perlman was born to play! He is absolutely amazing as Hellboy combining humor and toughness with a genuine sense of kindness towards humanity; he has become a loveable and even relatable character, despite the whole spawn of Satan thing! Along with Perlman, most of the original cast returned including Selma Blair (Liz), Jeffrey Tambor (Tom Manning), and even a cameo by the legendary John Hurt (Trevor Bruttenholm). David Hyde Pierce was the only cast member not to return, as the voice acting duties of Abe Sapien fell to Doug Jones, the same man who plays Abe in the film. Solid performances were given by Luke Goss, and Anna Walton who portrayed the prince and princess respectively. Seth MacFarlane provided the voice for German ectoplasmic psychic Johann Krauss, and provided most of the humor in this film. Danny Elfman did the music for this feature and combines his whimsical take with several popular hits to create an awesome soundtrack.
Hellboy II opened to very positive reviews and has amassed a worldwide total of over $160,000,000. Aside from the positive reviews and success, this film has also been nominated for numerous awards for almost every aspect of film making, winning several of them. Comic book, art book, and video game tie ins have subsequently come out to accompany this film. A third film has been talked about since the release of the Hellboy II, however it unfortunately seems to be doomed as no advances have yet been made.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army is an absolute joy to watch in every. The story is very gripping, and visually this movie is beautiful. Add in some very fun acting performances and you have an amazing two hour journey. I do regard this film underrated as far as comic films go as I feel it holds up to almost any other monster movie put out by Universal. Del Toro has proven he is a top notch director, not just in the creature and horror world, but also in the comic book world. I highly recommend this flick, and its predecessor.
And does anyone else agree that Guillermo Del Toro would be the perfect visionary direct to join Universal’s upcoming “Monsters Universe” of films? Make sure to comment below with your thoughts!