Wednesday, August 7, 2013

67. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Code-name: "comic" sequel

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Type: Sci-fi/Fantasy, comics, drama, adventure

Hellboy- Ron Pearlman
Liz Sherman- Selma Blair
Abe Sapian- Doug Jones (actor AND voice)
Johann Kraus- Seth McFarland (voice), John Alexander & James Dodd (actor)
Prince Nauda- Luke Goss
Princess Naula- Anna Walton
Tom Manning- Jeffrey Tambor
Professor Broom- John Hurt

Notable Nomination:
Oscar-  Best Makeup


Incoming: Nerd Alert!!
(If you don't feel up to bearing with me, feel free to scroll down)

I think this might be the first time while doing this list where I have a big ol' story to go into before the movie discussion itself.
That's part of why I love movies as much as I do.

This came out 5 years ago when I was on the brink of the best part of my life so far... all thanks to the number of friends I was making. The pinnacle of my social life came about when the leadership of my college's animé club came into the best hands possible.
Nothing against our former presidents, but not only were boyfriend & girlfriend Rob and Kelly present at every meeting (Wednesdays from 8 to 10pm), but they left the choices for the shows/movies we watched each night to the rest of the club... and they came up with ideas for things we could do off campus.
Because of them, we went to a midnight showing of "Twilight" (which I would have gone to see eventually, but the experience was just HUGE, my first ever midnight movie premiere)... but more notably and relevant to this entry, we had the trip to Comic-Con.

Granted, I was one of only four people that went, but it didn't matter. I had an absolute blast.
We stayed overnight at my friend Andrew's and took the train to New York Saturday. It was at the Jacob Javis Center. My friend, TJ, went on the whole time about meeting Selma Blair, who was there promoting this movie. Then after he got the chance, he wouldn't shut up about recounting the experience. He probably also took the most pictures of any of us, mainly of female cosplayers with excellent costumes.
Out of it, I got three action figures (for whatever reason, I have yet to open the boxes... maybe cuz I have nowhere to put Cloud, Sephiroth or Sora) and "FullMetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa" (the supposed final chapter of that particular animé series).

Of course I still kinda regret that I didn't at least pick up a throwaway camera because I had a chanced encounter of my own.
Anyone who watched the Pokémon television series would recognize Rachel Lillis and Veronica Taylor. With Veronica, it was a moment I'd waited 7 years for, and it was the best closure possible... considered how I stopped watching the series the year before on the grounds she was no longer dubbing Ash Ketchum. Unfortunately I can't find the autograph I got from her, but getting to tell her how much I loved her performances... priceless...

For the record, I still play the games and if I'm in the mood, I'll rewatch old reruns.
One thing you should know about me: when they change the cast for my favorite series, that's when I stop watching... Pokémon, Power Rangers and Sailor Moon are just a few examples... and I also haven't bothered to see the third "Mummy" movie because Rachel Weisz wasn't in it.

End of Nerd Alert
Sorry about that for all you non-nerds out there... now onto the actual movie.
It's based on a series of comic books by Mike Mignola from Dark Horse Comics.
For the record, I have seen the original... recently, in fact. I just wasn't as crazy about it.
The plot was much darker. The story didn't capture my imagination quite the same way. After rereading the premise, I think a great deal of it had to do with Selma Blair. Liz wasn't nearly as strong in the first movie. Her special ability is pyrokinetics, so she can burst into flames and use said flames as a weapon. In the first "Hellboy," though, she had trouble controlling her powers and was plagued by self-doubt and depression.
What propelled me into enjoying "Hellboy II" was a combination of a great storyline, imaginative characters and creatures and the relationship between those characters.
Hellboy and Liz make for a helluva couple who, according to Abe, have "their good days and their bad days" and after the back story, we're reintroduced to them on one of their "really bad days."
After my brief explanation, it really should go without saying that you don't want to mess with Liz when she's angry.
[The Plot]
The "golden army" mentioned in the title is explained in the form of a bedtime story by John Hurt to a young Hellboy. Way back when, man was at war with mythical creatures, particularly a race of elves. The king had a golden army built to overtake man, but he quickly regretted his decision. So he instated a truce where the creatures kept to the forests and man kept to the cities. He also split the crown needed to control the army in three pieces. Two went to him and one went to man.
At present day, his son, Prince Nuada returned from his self-imposed exile (he didn't trust that the truce would be honored) to exact revenge on man, whom he believes did not hold up their end of the bargain.
His first stop: an auction where the third crown piece is up for bid. He unleashes thousands of "tooth fairies," who consume flesh until nothing's left.
Next: his father's court where he defeats the bodyguards and kill the king for his crown piece.
His twin sister Nuala holds the final piece, but before he can take it from her as well, she runs off.
Sure, the character development with the prince isn't all that great, doesn't have a lot of dimensions to it. But he was still an excellent villain because the dude had mad fighting skills, almost like a ninja, his martial arts were a thrill to watch.
I also got into the twin aspects between them, which went far beyond just twin-telepathy. They can see what the other sees when they're apart. Notably, when pain is inflicted on one, its felt by the other.
Important point there.
Hellboy, Liz and Abe are part of the BPRD, the bureau of paranormal research and defense. They're in charge of dealing with mythical creatures and unexplained phenomena, almost like the people who work on the down-low in Area 51. But to the bane of Tom Manning, one of the dudes in charge, Hellboy seems hell-bent on letting people know what they do. In other words, he doesn't seem to know the meaning of keeping a low profile.
They're called into the auction house to deal with the aftermath and find out what happened to the people. Chaos ensues because the tooth fairies are still lingering and Liz has to do her thing to destroy them. But this explosion of sorts also lands Hellboy outside into the crowds. Cover blown.
This is why the people up top bring in Johann Kraus to take control of things.
He's described as a "disembodied ectoplasmic spirit with psychic abilities who maintains a tangible form via a containment suit." Strictly by-the-book type of guy, so Hellboy isn't crazy about him (part of it might be because he's German and Hellboy came into being when the Nazis were taking over in WWII).
After temporarily reviving one of the "tooth fairies" Liz fried, they search for their source: the troll marketplace. Think of it as Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, but with mythical creatures rather than wizards and witches. It is just a feast for the eyes for anyone with a shred of nerdyness in them, but there is too much to keep track of to single much out.
They do find out about Prince Nuada. Abe finds Princess Nuala and brings her back to headquarters for her protection. Of course she knows it's futile because of the twin-telepathy thing. But during this time, Abe falls in love with her as they're kindred spirits. Both are exceedingly intelligent and share a love of the arts.
While he's not fighting with Johann Kraus, Hellboy spends this time trying to figure out what's wrong with Liz... who seems a little distant and angrier as of late.
In the tooth fairy scuffle, Abe discovered that she was pregnant and she spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to tell Hellboy.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when the two guys get wasted and go on about how crazy they are about their respective women. And all the while, they're singing along to "I can't smile" by Barry Manilow, somewhat of this movie's theme song (played here and with the credits).
Unfortunately, the plot resumes and breaks up the harmony. The prince kidnaps his sister, gravely injures Hellboy and demands they bring the last crown piece to him. On their way to find the prince, they meet the Angel of Death (also played by Doug Jones) who agrees to remove the shrapnel from the prince's blade... all the while reminding Liz that he is destined to bring destruction to the universe and she'll suffer the most of anyone.
Naturally, this is the moment where she finally tells him about the baby. However cliché it is, it works well enough.
Indeed, the golden army proves to be as indestructible as the legend tells. Amazing special effects, as there are throughout the movie. The heroes do come out on top, but I won't give away how it happens. I thought it was a really good twist ending, although a little bittersweet.
But there's a light note afterwards with Hellboy and Liz that ends things off nicely 8-)
[Other Notes]
Guillermo del Toro certainly is a heck of a director with an amazing imagination. He also has a way with mythical creatures. I have yet to see "Pan's Labyrinth," but I'd heard nothing but good things about it.
In my case, whatever movie in a series I see first is almost always my favorite... namely because it sets up expectations and be wary if those expectations aren't met by its successors.
And it's rare when I love the second movie more than the first... "Spider-Man 2" is the only other case I can think of where this occurred.
The characters are super memorable and of course, I can't see them doing anything else. I wouldn't think of seeing Ron Pearlman without the Hellboy make-up. But I have heard his voice a couple times, particularly in the Nicktoon "Danny Phantom" where he plays the English teacher Mr. Lancer, who name-drops book titles at moments of astonishment or anger.
[this is a rough compilation someone posted]
Selma Blair, I got to know as the designated-bitch-turned-bestie in "Legally Blonde"... as I'm sure was the case for a lot of people.
I like all the main cast, but Abe has to be my favorite. He's a blue amphibious type of creature with a humanoid intellect, but it's his love for the arts that just fascinates me. Almost like he's a higher being, wise beyond any number of years us humans can reach.
I also tend to have a weak spot for the epic fantasy realm clichés... involving mythical creatures and saving the world and all that... I'd done that quite a bit in my own writing, but not as much as I used to.
[Final Head's Up]
Not next week, but after that, there will be a couple incoming nerd alerts... although not likely to this vast degree.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Jackie. Very stylized and fun, even if del Toro's story doesn't work as well as it did with the first.