August 22, 2008
Saving the World is a Hell of a Job
By GRAHAM YOUNG
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (12A) VERDICT: *****
OLD meat head is back to save our bacon - and what a difference four years makes.
When pink-faced Hellboy first appeared back in 2004, we were told: 'Believe it or not, he's the good guy'.
Created by, and rescued from the Nazis during infancy, he grew up to become a defender against dark forces and had an entertainingly offbeat way of doing 'business.
Returning to the fold as Mike Mignola's titular comic book character, actor Ron Perlman seems to have matured as the cigar- chomping, kitten loving hero.
The new story sees some rebellious creatures coming out from their underworld to attack humans.
Watching Hellboy physically sorting them out is terrific fun.
But he also has a neat line in selfdeprecating humour, too - as you would if faced with a long-haired, albino prince played by the completely unrecognisable former Bros star, Luke Goss.
'Oh, crap,' is one of Hellboy's favourite expressions, which illustrates how you don't need William Shakespeare's skills to excite Hollywood, and he also comes with choice lines like: 'I would die for her... but she wants me to do the dishes'.
What's more important is to be a visionary director, one who can really make you believe that, after Scotland last time, you really do now need to go to Northern Ireland in a fantastical story of this nature.
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Torro - the man charged with making JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Hobbit II for 2011 and 2012 - is certainly that.
Trouble is, his Spanish language movies, The Devil's Backbone (2001) and Pan's Labyrinth (2006) are the best things he's done, not Blade or this series.
Hellboy II, which Del Torro also wrote, is a good film with lots of visual detail to admire.
But its EUR75 million US box office gross was less than half that of Iron Man which had a more definable marketing concept.
There's also so many echoes of the extraordinary Pan's Labyrinth, right down to the creature faces and hands, it's as if this is an enforced Hollywood remake dressed up in Hellboy's clothes.
You can image the studio heads saying: 'We'll give you the dosh, Guilly, if you create lots of reminders why Men in Black (1997) is still at No 42 on the all time worldwide box office'.
Indeed, Hellboy's new tagline is 'Saving the world is a hell of a job', not a million miles from Men in Black's old hookline: 'Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe'.
Hellboy II was one of my top five anticipatory films of the year.
Yet, unlike Labyrinth, and The Orphanage which Del Torro produced last year, it palpably lacks tension.
It also opens in a rather confusing state, with some very frequent location changes soon mirroring the mess that was Ocean's 12.
Though another 12A with considerable violence - including a blade scene mirroring Pan's Labyrinth's notorious stitch-up sequence - it's not as heavy duty as The Dark Knight and is always entertaining at heart.
Cinemagoers of any age with a mental age of 15-20 will love it.
But, if you missed Clive Owen's little seen Shoot 'Em Up last year, you'll find that's actually far funnier.www.hellboymovie.com
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