Hellboy II: The Golden Army
You see there are a couple of big things that hit me about the film, one is that there was an attempt to push too much into it, and two that there just seemed to be so much crammed in to such a short film.
He and Liz are in a proper relationship and living together, and Abe is still Abe, although he has a slightly different voice. Manning is still in charge of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and as we start the film we see that the team are pretty used to going out and killing and capturing the odd bizarre creature.
However something bigger is afoot in the world, and a new force is rising that threatens to destroy all of mankind...again.
In the past the mythical world and humans waged war against each other and to gain the upper hand the King Balor of the elfin race had the goblins create an unstoppable army of golden robots who obeyed the wearer of a golden crown.
The King used the army to wipe out an attack of the humans and they carried out their task with ruthless efficiency, but it so shocked and sickened him that he made a truce with the humans and put the Golden Army to rest. Splitting the golden crown he kept a piece for himself, gave a piece to his daughter and another piece to the humans, and the King ensured peace was held since.
However his son, Prince Nuada, disagreed with the truce and wanted to destroy the humans, and so he was sent to exile vowing to return when the time was right for the mythical world to stand up once again to the humans.
As we join the film it seems the time is now as the Prince returns to find the three pieces of the crown and bring to life the Golden Army and wipe out the humans.
The plot sounds pretty epic, and the film is attempting to up the ante from the first Hellboy, which is hard since the first is such a good fun film and creates the character of Hellboy so well.
Early on it does a great job of catching us up with the characters and the story without feeling like one of those "previously" sequences. There's a great moment that shows just that when the team are heading on a call out and leaving the BPRD.
You can see that everything has increased in size and scale by what is going on around them. All the characters are gearing up and heading out to their transport when there is a short exchange between Manning, Hellboy and Liz. I forget the exact words, but within the context of an offhand conversation we hear how he helped push Myers out of the job because of his jealousy.
All that is handled well and we're caught up and straight back into their lives without a second thought.
However there are a couple of negative aspects that come from this catch up montage and are carried through the film. The first is an association that I just couldn't help as my mind leapt to Men In Black. This, and the feeling of the Star Wars cantina came back a few times in the film and there were two reasons for that.
The first is the comedy aspect of the film, there is a lot more comedy, and for my mind a lot less clever comedy. In the first film there was a lot of dry wit, particularly from Hellboy himself, and this time it feels lesser, more simple and reactive humour.
The second aspect it the cramming in of as many creatures as possible, here there feels as though there's a need to try and get more wonderful creature effects on the go without a desire to flesh them out with character.
They appear and disappear as quickly as they arrived, without much of a notice, and on some occasions they are just so obviously there to push the story onwards. Something which isn't often done that cleverly.
Take for example the angel type character near the end of the film that happens to be there for the broken spear scene, they are just there to provide a means to get rid of that story line and progress the film. In fact there's no need for the story line at all.
Sure they tell us about the end of the world and of Hellboy's part in it all but we're told to wait as a setup for the next film, and with that the character is gone.
There was a lot of this film that seemed to be showcasing creatures, and we never really got into their characters other than effects deep, which wasn't very deep at all. They never really seemed to play that much of a part in the film.
Talking of the effects there was one creature which really took me out of the film, for all that del Toro likes to mix his effects styles, the creature that the team talk to in the troll market is absolutely awful. Actually that's not true if we are thinking back to when Arnie starred in Total Recall and we saw the creature with the baby attached to his chest. Here the effects for this creature aren't much better than that film from 1990.
It also seemed strange that Prince Nuada called on all the good and bad creatures of the mythical kingdom to rally around him, and he ends up with a couple who are defeated by Hellboy, hardly a legion or army.
Okay, I think I've been vocal enough about the bad points, what about the good?
Well although Hellboy isn't the center of attention nearly enough, when he is he's back to his former glory. The character was the main draw for the first film and he's been brought back perfectly. What's even better about this film is that there's more of the characters around him and more time spent on the relationships between them, and these are some of the strongest moments of the film.
I absolutely adored the bonding moment between Hellboy and Abe, and the growing relationship between he and Liz is well drawn out and provided for some strong moments.
The continuing relationship of teasing and a desire for acceptance between Hellboy and the head of the team is also there, and that's another good aspect carried forward from the previous film.
Luke Goss is once again a superb make-up covered villain, although this time we do get to see a little more of him acting and a little more of his face. Some of the martial arts he does during the fight scenes is really pretty impressive and it really is about time that he gets a leading role without the need for all the makeup.
For the most part the creature effects are good and the action builds well, but there is a feeling of it being like so many other stories, there's nothing here that really captured my imagination and really caught me as much as the previous Hellboy.
A formulaic film perhaps, but the real let down here is the creature showcase with bit parts galore and a Prince that commands the few remaining mythical creatures, not much of an impressive kingdom.
Hellboy and his friends are still there though, and they are the draw. Although their moments are less on screen than the first, and the story feels a little stock, it does provide for some good entertainment.
If there's going to be a fourth, let's hope there's more depth to it and less creature showcasing.