Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) Review

Rating: 3 Stars

The following review contains spoilers.

Overview:

Hellboy is back and boy-ier than ever! When the lost piece of an ancient crown that allows its wearer to control 4,900 invincible golden robots turns up at an auction, Prince Nuada, an elf, attacks with an army of savage tooth fairies and steals it. Hellboy and his crew, sexy fishman Abe Sapien and twisted firestarter Liz Sherman, go to investigate the scene, but the tooth fairies prove too much for them and the fight spills out onto the street, revealing the existence of the top-secret B.R.P.D. (you know, as it says on their clothes and the side of their plane and on all their shipping crates, etc.) to the general public.

Needing to bring Hellboy to heel, the powers that be give the team a new supervisor, Johann Krauss, an entirely ectoplasmic being that lives inside a containment suit, and spends most of the film yelling at Agent Hellboy to follow procedures, until his inexplicable face turn at the very end when he helps the team steal a company plane. Also, Abe Sapien has fallen in love with Prince Nuada’s twin sister, Princess Nuala, and will do anything to protect her from her mad brother, up to and including giving him the third-and-final piece of the crown, which of course he has to do because the movie is called “The Golden Army” and you know that dang army is gonna get activated and fight Hellboy at some point.

Best Parts:

I praised the last movie’s make-up and practical effects, and they’re even better in this movie. They go all-out with creature design and world-building, creating an entire underground civilization of fairies, goblins, and trolls for our heroes to explore. Every few minutes there’s a new bizarre creature or amazing setting being revealed, such as the troll market, the forest god, the Giant’s Causeway giant, and the androgynous angel of death.

There are some impressive fight scenes and choreography. The final battle between Hellboy and Prince Nuada on top of a series of giant clockwork gears is a highlight.

Worst Parts:

Again, like the first film, it’s a fine watch, but it’s kind of forgettable. You’d think with all these amazing creatures and effects that wouldn’t be true, but the problem lies in the writing. The plot is a bit boring and predictable (they establish in minute two of the film that the crown only works if nobody challenges its wearer for their right to rule, and so obviously that’s how the movie’s going to end), and the character writing is simply bad. Things just happen and people just do things, and you can’t follow along with their inner story or their motivations at all. There’s no real heart or feeling to any of it, and the characters seem more like cardboard cutouts than three-dimensional beings.

Hellboy himself is even more annoying and dickish than in the first film, and Liz Sherman is somehow even more of a clichéd “girlfriend” character, spending the first-half of the movie nagging Hellboy about cleaning their shared room, and the second-half fretting over her unexpected pregnancy. Despite being objectively the most powerful person on the team, we often find her standing at the sidelines or literally waiting in the car for everyone else to go handle business. When she finally reveals her pregnancy to Hellboy at the very end, everyone suddenly quits the B.R.P.D. (why?) and as they’re walking away, she clarifies that it’s twins, and Hellboy literally looks at the camera and it freeze-frames then cuts to credits. The lack of an accompanying record-scratch shows a restraint that I didn’t think the filmmakers were capable of, honestly.

Boy, Guillermo del Toro sure loves creatures that don’t have eyes where they should and do have eyes where they shouldn’t.

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