Hellboy 2 The Golden Army

directed by Guillermo del Toro
starring Ron Perlman (yay!), Selma Blair, Doug Jones, someone's voice in a clunky, but nifty, steampunky suit, Elric and his daughter (as siblings), Jeffrey Tambor and a cast of thousands. and Jimmy Kimmel.

not as good as i had hoped it would be. i love Hellboy, but del Toro's version has always been a different creature from Mignola's. the movie Hellboy's main weakness, to my mind, is also its strength: unmoored from 'real world' myths, legends and folklore (which underpin Mignola's original), the filmic version of the big red guy lacks weight, seems less substantial than the comic book version; in addition, his struggle against his dark destiny as Anung Un Rama, which takes centerstage or, if not, at least haunts the proceedings constantly in the main series of comics, giving the comics a foreboding gravity, a dangerous undertow to the blackly (and subtly) comic antics of HB and the Gang, feels like an afterthought here; they point to it, and not at all subtly, but it feels like a bit of a pantomime, really: oh, btw, Red, you'll be responsible for destroying the world...do i hear a callback for Hellboy 3? cha-ching!

cinemacynicism aside (and if there's a 3 coming up, bring it on), this unmooring, as i said, is also the movie version's strength: paying homage only to a tradition of the fantastic going not much further back than Tolkien and thereby playing very much on the surface of fantastic fiction, del Toro gets to lord it up and bring the full force of his literally monstrous imagination to bear, throwing everything from toothfairies to trolls to goblins to an elemental, an angel of death and giant killer mecha--none of which much resemble anything from the collective unconscious--onto the screen. Mignola once said all he wanted to do was draw monsters; he seems to have found his filmic counterpart in del Toro.

while i'm grateful that the magnificently talented body actor Doug Jones has been given some much deserved extra screentime, i'm afraid the otherwise charming Abe Sapien makes a poor lead for a film, and this decision having relegated Hellboy almost to the sidelines (though not in the action sequences, of course) hurts the film immensely. this is relative, mind you; objectively speaking, i do believe the film is split fairly evenly between the two leads; still, much of Hellboy's charm is Hellboy himself, and though i do agree that that much talked about scene with the two friends (Red and Blue) boozing it up to Barry Manilow was brilliant, i can't help but feel cheated of Hellboy's salty, straight-talking charm. the movie assumes our affection for Hellboy without really reminding us why we should love him, and while i love Hellboy more than most people i know, this assumption undercuts the full brilliance of the final shot of the film, making it feel insubstantial, even, dare i say, baseless and therefore rather twee.

Selma Blair, thankfully, remains as hot as ever.

oh, and for you geeks out there, the climactic (or pre-climactic) scene with the Golden Army kicks seventy times seventy different kinds of ass out of any scene from Bayformers.

so there.

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