Tuesday, August 05, 2008

HELLBOY II - THE GOLDEN ARMY - hands (of doom) down the best of the summer blockbusters

Aw, crap!HELLBOY II - THE GOLDEN ARMY is by far the most satisfying of the summer blockbusters in terms of sureness of purpose; visual flair; emotional engagement; and sheer balls-out entertainment. It leaves the HULK and IRON MAN trailing in its wake, and while THE DARK KNIGHT may have been more ambitious and seditious, it teased more than satisfied: HELLBOY II, by contrast, shows a film-maker in full control of his medium and his subject matter.

The story is simple but captivating, rooted in myth and legend. Man has encroached upon the territory of monsters, and Prince Nuada will lead a mechanical golden army to reclaim that territory. His twin sister, Princess Nuala wants to maintan the peace and unites with Hellboy and his fellow paranormal investigators at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. So, "Red" goes into battle once more, defendng the very humans who call him a freak, turning against his own kind. On top of which, he's got relationship problems with is pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz Sherman; he's being ragged by his new boss, an ethereal officious pyschic called Johann Krauss; and his best friend, a merman called Abe Sapien has gone goofy for the Princess. What's a demon to do but slap on the Barry Manilow, drink more beer and kick the crap out of the other guy?!

Guillermo del Toro's plotting is admirably neat and linear, and that allows him to spend all his time, care and energy on some of the most wonderful visuals to be seen in a summer blockbuster. Art-house fans will see the same sort of organic, authentic fantasy creatures from PAN'S LABRYNTH on a far bigger canvas. The genius od del Toro is to harness the power of CGI without making his creatures look too fake, sleek and automated. His world is grimy, grungy, living and breathing, mythic and beautiful. The "cantina" scene in the Troll Market already has me desperate to see the movie again and wallow ithe richness of the imagination on show. And the internal mechanisms of the Golden Army are intricate and breath-taking.

The rich visuals are complemented by a script and performances that manage to walk the line between genuine emotional engagement and laugh-out-loud comedy. It says a lot for Anna Walton and Seth "Family Guy" MacFarlane that we fall for a love story between two characters played from behind serious make-up and prosthetics - the most unlikely romantic couple in cinema. And Ron Perlman has cause to feel overlooked in all the hype about Heath Ledger. He's consistently one of the most charismatic and engagic actors working. He manages to pull of deeply romantic scenes with Liz (Selma Blair), moments of soul-searching, and slapstick comedy in fights with Krauss and drunken male bonding with Abe.

Many summer blockbusters try to capture the heady mix of action, romance, comedy and myth that made the original STAR WARS flick and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK so enjoyable and memorable. Few have succeeded. But HELLBOY II is firmly in that genre, and is one of the very few CGI movies to be a master of its technology rather than a slave to it.

HELLBOY II - THE GOLDEN ARMY was released earlier this year in Singapore, Thailand, Mexico, Panama, the US, Iceland, Italy, Israel and Russia. It opens on Agust 14th in Russia; on August 15th in Turkey; on August 20th in the UK; on August 21st in Hungary, the Netherlands and Portugal; on August 22nd in Norway; on August 28th in Australia and on August 29th in Spain. It opens on September 5th in Slovakia, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia and Finland and later in September in Poland and Sweden. It opens in October in Argentina, Greece, Venezuela, Germany, Belgium, Egypt and France.


  1. Best Blockbuster I've seen all summer. It is amazing. Del Toro knows cinema. Can't wait for what he does with anything he touches... The Hobbit?! GAH!

  2. Saw this earlier on tonight; really good. Maybe a bit too much humour strangely enough, I just found some of the lines corny. But the effects and the world created were wonderful. It all felt really quick too, with no slow bits.

    There was an interview with Del Toro in Edge last month saying how he was a big video games fan. I'd love him to do the big screen adaptation of Bioshock, that'd be something to see.

  3. yeah - he definitely took it to a very slapstick place, not least with that locker room fight scene. I have to say I really loved it. I loved how you could have the comedy of Barry Manilow but at the same time, you definitely feel emotional at the ending....

    I'd watch anything del Toro made - but yes tackling anything dystopian like Bioshock would work.....

    Not that I don't like Pete Jackson, but looking at the world and the detail in Hellboy II can you imagine what a del Toro LOTR would've looked like?!