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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

***½ Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Science fiction, action/adventure.

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro.
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Seth MacFarlane

We saw this at the Embassy theater during our month in San Antonio this summer.

The basic premise is that Prince Nuada of the elves (Luke Goss) is putting together the three pieces of the crown that controls the invincible Golden Army, and when/if he does, he's going to destroy humankind. It's up to Hellboy (Ron Perlman) to stop him.

My biggest problem with the movie--one I just could not get over--is that Prince Nuada had a point, and a very good reason for wanting to strike back at humans. Centuries (millennia?) ago, the humans and elves had made a treaty, leaving the forests to the elves. And humans hadn't just broken the treaty, they'd smashed it. Not that the destruction of all humankind is the answer, but the elves were the wronged party, and to declare all-out war on Nuada without even an attempt at restitution.... Somebody burns down your house, you're angry and go after them, so they and all their pals kill you? That's justice? It struck me as a very current-U.S.-administration attitude: anyone who disagrees with us must be killed, regardless of their reasons. Frankly, it made me heartsick.

The beginning of the movie, with Hellboy as a child being told the tale of the Golden Army, dragged. It was a clever way to get the audience the information, but it's also not a good idea to bore your audience for the first 15 minutes of the film.

I couldn't really believe the romantic relationships: Hellboy and Liz (Selma Blair) were like the couples in old sitcoms who did nothing but argue with each other. And Abe (Doug Jones) and Princess Nuala (Anna Watson) fall in sacrifice-yourself-for-each-other true love at first glance. But it's a comic book movie, so I didn't really expect that much realism there.

Speaking of Abe, what happened to the breathing apparatus that was so incredibly important at the beginning of the movie?

There was, however, a lot to like about Hellboy II. Visually, it's fabulous. Bright, vivid colors, lots of details, lots of visual stimulation. It's really a gorgeous movie to look at, particularly the scenes in the Troll Market, which were reminiscent of the Mos Eisley Cantina, but brighter.

Speaking of which, the variety of creatures was also very cool. I particularly liked the tooth fairies, evil little flying things that eat calcium. Chief among them, though, was Hellboy's new... er... ally, maybe: Dr. Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane). Dr. Krauss was mist, or energy, inside a steampunk suit. I was initially unsure about him, but he turned out to have some cool abilities, and was one of my favorite parts of the movie. I wish he'd had more screen time. Perhaps if/when they make a third...

I haven't even mentioned the emotional plot, which stems around secrecy and acceptance. Fire-girl Liz is especially affected by feeling like a freak, probably because when she's not exhibiting her powers, she looks like an ordinary human. Their boss at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, Agent Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), is becoming increasingly incensed at Hellboy's disregard for the Bureau's edict of secrecy. And part of fish-boy Abe's love affair with Princess Nuala was a desire to be accepted. Good stuff, and nicely done--if only it hadn't been overshadowed by such an unjust action plot.

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