HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
After an ancient truce between humankind and the original, fantastic creatures of the Earth is broken, all hell is about to break loose. The anarchical underworld Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), has grown weary of centuries of deference to mankind. He plots to awaken the long-dormant golden army of killing machines that will return what belongs to his people; all magical creatures shall finally be free to roam again. Now, only Hellboy (Ron Perlman) - with help from his pyrokinetic partner Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) can stop the dark ruler and save the world from certain annihilation.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Guillermo del Toro's cinematic vision - or more accurately, visions - conjure up a spectacularly vibrant, varied, detailed, freakish, magical, surreal and exciting universe for this sequel to Hellboy (2004).* Fans will be thrilled by the expansion in weaponry, wizardry and fantasy as Red chomps his way through his favourite cigar as he dispatches the bad guys. Those of us who are not part of the Hellboy fan club can marvel at the sheer invention, energy and fun that del Toro manages to cram into 110 minutes.
The story is straight out of Fairy Tales Volume 1; in the mists of time, humans and the non-human, fantastic creatures of the earth were forever at war, until a truce was negotiated. This truce included the lock-up of the golden army, 70 times 70 mechanical warriors who were deemed indestructible. The owner of golden crown controls them, and the old king's son, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), has had enough of truce and wants to reclaim the earth, destroying the humans in the process - with the help of this golden army.
It's a story the child Hellboy hears from a book read to him by his adoptive father (John Hurt), not knowing that in his adult life, he would come to realise it is not merely a fairy tale, but deadly fact. By this time he has married the fire-freak, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and is enjoying some domestic turbulence when we join them, mid-squabble. Retaining his signature sense of humour, del Toro gives most of the characters a greater dimension through humour.
Ron Perlman continues to breathe recognisable life into Hellboy, complete with antipathy to washing up, addiction to TV, beer and cigars. Exactly what the target market is into ...perhaps with the exception of the latter. Selma Blair is likeable as his squeeze, and the strangely dressed Professor Johann Krauss (voiced by John Alexander and James Dodd) who is sent to take control of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence where Hellboy resides (along with other creatures) somehow evokes character without enjoying the advantages of a head with eyes and other facial features used for human communication. Likewise Doug Jones, who voices life into the extraordinary and endearing aquatic creature, Abe Sapien, who develops a special relationship with Nuada's twin sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton).
Shot on Hungarian locations and studio sets, the film blazes with practical (as well as digital) effects and physical detail; in the spectacular troll market scene, for instance, there are some 170 dressed extras (ranging in freakiness from intriguing to jaw dropping), even though only half a dozen or so interact with the principal characters in the scene. It's indicative of the depth of detail del Toro pumps into the film, resulting in a rich, multi layered experience of the kind we humans attempt to enjoy with our eyes closed while mum or dad reads us a fairy story. Except the music is much bigger.
*Footnote: Hellboy's first adventures were published by Dark Horse Comics in 1994. Guillermo del Toro's debut as a feature film director came a year earlier with the critically acclaimed horror film Cronos, starring Ron Perlman as the thug in search of an immortality device.
Review by Louise Keller:
High concept fantasy through the eyes of creative genius of Guillermo del Toro, this wonderfully dense and visually provocative sequel offers an explosion of exquisite comic-book cinematic enchantment. Del Toro has created a tangible reality with imaginative characters that may look foreboding, but sandwiched between violence, display gentle human emotions to which we easily relate. The story involves an ancient truce, a broken promise, a power-hungry prince and the lovable band of colourful freaks who work in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence - always at the ready to protect the world.
But this is more than a spectacle of intricately created creatures and monsters – although just watching the special effects and ideas from the production design is mesmerising initself. The film also has heart. There’s the complex relationship between the unlikely couple of Ron Perlman’s Hellboy (she calls him Red) and his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), and the unexpected attraction between Doug Jones’ gentle aquatic empath Abe Sapien and Anna Walton’s melancholy Princess Nuala. The scene when Abe plays a Barry Manilow song (I Can’t Smile Without You) as he researches love songs with which to serenade his intended, is one of the most incongruous imaginable, and one whose effect multiplies as Hellboy joins him in song.
There are many highlights, from the luminous green jumping bean that turns into a gigantic and destructive forest god, to the extraordinary Troll Market and the swarm of avaricious third century tooth fairies. Death is a tantalisingly beautiful creature and the climactic confrontation with the fiery Golden Army is stunning. The actors and their characters merge beautifully with Perlman haunting as big, red Hellboy, Luke Goss a formidable villain and Jones, plus the two women Blair and Walton, vulnerable by contrast. It’s one hell of a trip!
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LUKE GOSS INTERVIEW - By Andrew L. Urban
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (M)
CAST: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hurt, Brian Steele,
VOICES: Seth Mac Farlane
PRODUCER: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Mike Richardson, Joe Roth
DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
SCRIPT: Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mignola (comic by Mignola)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Guillermo Navarro
EDITOR: Bernat Vilaplana
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Scott
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 28, 2008