Back in 2008 we saw both the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight, but there was another comic book adaptation in that year. In this Rewind Review, we take a look at Oscar-winning director, Guillermo Del Toro’s superior sequel in the Hellboy franchise.
Based on the Dark Horse comic book series by Mike Mignola, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the follow-up to 2004’s Hellboy, and sees the titular character trying to stop an exiled prince from collecting a magical crown and unleashing the indestructible Golden Army on the world of man.
Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy and cements himself as the perfect choice for the role. He seems much more at ease in the role and the red prosthetics, and his performance is all the better for it. This time around, he gets to explore Hellboy’s relationship with Liz Sherman, which develops further and provides the film’s most touching moments.
Frequent Guillermo Del Toro collaborator, Doug Jones returns as Abe Sapian, who gets much more to do this time around as he help the princess evade her brother. He’s fleshed out much better and his relationship with Hellboy seems much more believable, especially with a scene showing them sharing several beers, singing to “Can’t Smile without you”.
Selma Blair appears again as Liz Sherman, who is fleshed out a little bit. Even though she has an important part later on in the film, she doesn’t have much to do and her performance seems pretty muted. This seems like the writer’s choice, but she could have had much more.
Luke Goss stars as the pale skinned villain, Prince Nuada, who wants to reclaim the Earth from humanity, who he says is slowly destroying it. He’s a great character with fantastic motivation and provides a truly unique opponent for Hellboy to face.
Most of the other characters that appear all have a good role to play, with BPRD agent, Manning, getting increasingly frustrated with Hellboy’s reckless behaviour and trying to bribe him with cigars, and the introduction of Johann Krauss, who’s assigned to oversee operations.
The story is well told and fits the lore of the character perfectly. It builds from what the first film did, while being something different and not re-treading old territory, as many sequels tend to do. There are certain plot points that are similar to Del Toro’s previous superhero sequel, Blade II (2002), but they work just as well and fit the plot seamlessly.
The first movie was mostly serious with the odd splash of humour, but this one truly hones in on the humour, both verbal and slapstick, making this entry much funnier and more entertaining. In many ways, this is the prototype for what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would do in later years and shows how to properly execute the balance of light and dark.
Another aspect that it manages to balance well is the scale. Most sequels do one of two things, become more personal or go bigger, Hellboy II does both and nails that balance perfectly.
The action is brilliant and reminiscent of the battles in Del Toro’s Blade II. They are shot and choreographed well, and they are much more fluid and quick compared to the battles of the first movie. The wirework is used well and it’s great to see the amount of real stunts on display, such as Nuada’s free-running style of movement.
Unlike the first movie, this film doesn’t focus on the horror aspects of the characters quite as heavily, but there are a few scary sequences, including a disturbing encounter with ‘tooth fairies’, so called because they feast on calcium.
A lot of the creatures, such as the Tooth Fairies and the mist form of Johann Krauss are brought to life with CGI, which all look nothing short of brilliant. But the effects are not a patch on the amount of practical effects used throughout the film.
Guillermo Del Toro has always made full use of real and practical effects, with one scene set in the underground ‘Troll Market’ being a highlight. The creatures and enhancements all look fantastic and give the actors something to react to. It’s expensive to do, but with Guillermo Del Toro putting in his own finances, it’s worth every penny.
The designs of everything, from the sets to the creatures are so well defined and in depth that multiple viewings are required to fully appreciate it all, right down to the colours in each scene.
The majority of scenes set in the normal, human world are under a blue filter, whereas most of the creature-centric scenes are under a gold filter. The sequence set in the throne room is gorgeous and signals the fading of that royal family with its constantly falling gold leaves.
The music was created by cinematic legend Danny Elfman, who’s no stranger to the superhero genre, having crafted the themes for Batman (1989), Hulk (2003) and Spider-Man (2002). He has made a good score that suits the movie, but it doesn’t quite stand out as much as it could, and it isn’t as iconic as his other soundtracks.
Much like the first movie, there are several moments of foreshadowing about Hellboy’s destiny to bring about the end of the world. Unfortunately, due to the disappointing box office, we will not get to see Guillermo Del Toro’s vision for Hellboy 3, leaving his destiny unfulfilled.
But fans will be pleased to hear that a third, but rebooted movie is on the way in early 2019 with Stranger Things star, David Harper, taking over the title role, alongside Mila Jovovich as Nimue in Hellboy: The Blood Queen.
Overall, this is an improvement over the first movie with a better grasp over each of the characters. It’s a movie that all comic book fans should see and can enjoy. It’s disappointing this was the last film, but on the plus side, they went out on a high note.
Purple Revolver rating: 4.5/5. A rare superior sequel.