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  Hellboy II: The Golden Army Well Red
Year: 2008
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, James Dodd, Jeffrey Tambor, John Alexander, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Seth MacFarlane, John Hurt, Brian Steele, Andrew Hefler, Iván Kamarás, Mike Kelly, Jeremy Zimmerman, Roy Dotrice, Aidan Cook, Jeanne Mockford
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The tale of The Golden Army was one of the bedtime stories told to Hellboy (Ron Perlman) when he was growing up, and might even have been true. It was said that in the wars between the humans and the supernatural beings, countless centuries ago, one king has created a race of gold warriors who could not be stopped by any force; so powerful were these creatures that the king agreed to hold a truce and they were consigned to an underground tomb, yet the Prince (Luke Goss) never forgot them, or the three parts of the crown designed to control them - could they rise again?

The original Hellboy movie was not a runaway success by any means, but it did pick up a loyal foillowing derived both from fans of the director Guillermo del Toro and the artist of its comic book, Mike Mignola. It had also got the Hellboy name out there in a wider stage, therefore when del Toro made it clear that he wanted to make a sequel, he was able to find the backing and this was the result. In many ways it was business as usual for the character, with the imaginative monsters and the wry sense of humour, and once more the fans loved it.

As for everyone else, perhaps they were not quite as impressed. This might have been because the tone is somewhat corny, although to their credit the filmmakers embrace this by giving Hellboy issues with his girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair was also back) and a bunch of humorous one-liners designed towards the self-deprecating. This is effective up to a point, but veers dangerously close to giving the character's fantasy world a banal feel if Hellboy is having trouble getting on at work and relationships, much like us mere mortals.

Do we really want our demonic superheroes humanised quite to that extent, especially when it turns the action into an overblown soap opera? Fortunately the gags are better this time around, so when Hellboy and his colleague Abe Sapien (Doug Jones, using his own voice this time around) get drunk and sing Barry Manilow it may be cheesy, but it doesn't grate too much, in spite of how calculated it comes across as. And after all, there are monsters to defeat, ranging from the tiny Tooth Fairies which devour their victims to a huge forest god which tears up a New York street in its try at destroying Hellboy.

However, there are clichés of superhero movies to be tackled as well, and just like well nigh every other one Hellboy has to come up against prejudice because he is an outsider - but then, so are most of his friends. We're back with lamenting over humanity rejecting their saviours once more, not quite to a Biblical degree, but still feeling hackneyed. That said, there's a nice tone of regret that those "others" should have to end up dead no matter whose side they are on, with Hellboy seeing the light when that forest god is considered on a par with him by those he has just rescued (including some neat business juggling an endangered baby). This is brought further home when the Prince has a much nicer twin (Anna Walton) who will die if he dies, giving rise to a tricky moral conundrum which is sadly rather thown away. Not bad, then, and it does look terrific, but does not escape the more laboured conventions. Music by Danny Elfman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Guillermo del Toro  (1964 - )

Stylish Mexican horror director who moves between personal projects and Hollywood blockbusters. After a couple of short films, he earned international attention with unusual vampire chiller Cronos. Mimic was an artistically disappointing follow up, but he enjoyed success with vampire action sequel Blade II, spooky ghost story The Devil's Backbone, and another horror comic adaptation, Hellboy. Spanish Civil War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth was widely seen as a triumph and won three Oscars. After a long spell in production hell since Hellboy II, he returned with giant monster mash Pacific Rim and gothic chiller Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water, an unconventional horror romance, garnered him Oscars.

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