August 8, 2008

Hoo boy, it's Hellboy

Hellboy II is packed with pleasantly distracting eye candy yet ultimately lacks the meat and potatoes of solid storytelling and character development. It's a visual feast that leaves you hungry for substance. A buffet of blue-screen effects that uh...ok, I've run out of food metaphors.

Much in the vein of Hellboy, its sequel is charged with nonstop action and snappy one-liners, except this time with fewer Russians and more elves. New to the mix is director Guillermo del Toro who lends his signature flair for creature creation to the film, reminiscent of his acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth. The menagerie of fantasy beings that populate Hellboy II is truly the highlight of the movie, from the deceptively cute “tooth fairies” to ectoplasmarvelous Johann Krauss.

The film begins with Professor Bruttenholm reading a sweet story from the Big Book O' Expositional Tales O' Foreshadowing about an ancient race of elves. These elves enlisted the help of the goblins to build an indestructible army of golden machines that would quash the humans and end feuding amongst their three races. Years later, the elven prince resurfaces to find and reunite the scattered pieces of his father's crown, which controls the Golden Army. Naturally, he plans to use the army to crush all humans. Hellboy and his BPRD pals combat the prince while facing beasties, public scorn, and love
– the biggest challenge of 'em all – along the way.

One interesting question this movie (heck, even its promo posters) raises is: Where should Hellboy's allegiance lie? Is he more man or monster? The first half of the film postures Hellboy's identity as a central theme, but somewhere along the way, this idea becomes a dim undertone lost among the clamorous action. Yes, Hellboy is misunderstood by the general public, especially by my mother, who asks why he has giant corks in his head. Yet Red is shown as being merely perturbed by the name-calling and accusations. When he shows as much emotion over losing an expensive cigar, it's hard to be convinced of his inner angst.

The most conflict Hellboy displays on the matter is brief hesitation in battle and an off-the-cuff remark about fitting in well at Troll Market amongst cathedral-cranium folk and sentient tumors, apparently. With so little introspection and no indication of how Hellboy is ultimately received by the people he protects, the entire film becomes stunted.

To say Hellboy II is predictable is like calling William Shatner a little hammy. The conclusion is broadcasted more than reruns of Full House. As such, even the action scenes lose any edge of suspense as the movie plods its way towards its obvious outcome. While del Toro's skill of crafting creatures shines, it's surprising that his nuanced and poignant storytelling ability, as displayed in The Orphanage, fails to carry through.

Overall, Hellboy II is an entertaining offering of summer fluff. Savor the visual treat, if you can stomach the rest.


Spoiler Rant:

Hey, guys. Raise your hand if the second Nuala's nose started bleeding you knew she'd have to die to defeat her brother. Yeah, I thought so. I'm convinced the crew members watched Fatal Fury and said, “Fuck it! There's our script.”

Red and Liz teach us that it's a-ok to jeopardize the fate of all mankind so long as you've been dating for at least one feature-length film. But Abe and Nuala? Pssh, they've only shared a few scenes of awkward puppy love. Phooey on their love-conquers-all schtick!

Is Abe's breathing apparatus all for show? A vanity piece in a new line of couture toilet seat collars? Or is he better at holding his breath than video game fans banking on a stellar movie from Uwe Boll?

(Images courtesy of Universal Pictures and Thank you Jen and Hackosphere!!)


Jen said...

Ectoplasmarvelous - I like it.

That question about the breathing apparatus distracted me for the entire the movie. I barely even remember the plot because "how is he breathing now???" kept running through my head.

Good review!

PS - found these for you, I haven't tried either one out yet though:

Movie Meg said...

Thank you, Jen!! The expandable/collapsible posting works great! I'm so inept at html, I'm surprised I got it to work.

Seriously, the breathing apparatus. What the heck?

Evan said...

Nuala's nose gave it allll away for me.