Following ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ ‘Hellboy II: The Golden Army’ Regresses From Best to Worst For Guillermo del Toro

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Average: 4 (24 votes) Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Hellboy is plugged as the world’s brawniest, kitten-loving superhero. While that paradox is supposed to be both funny and action packed, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” from famed writer and director Guillermo del Toro falls flat on the funny front and instead winds up on the funny farm.

Amid a superhero-laden 2008 with true blockbusters including “The Dark Knight” (opening on July 18, 2008), “Iron Man,” “Hancock,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Punisher: War Zone” (opening on Dec. 5, 2008), “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” had just as much potential but reveals only semi-blockbuster status.

Hellboy (Ron Perlman) does battle with an elemental in Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Hellboy (Ron Perlman) does battle with an elemental in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”.
Photo credit: Double Negative, copyright Universal Studios

On the heels of the majestically dark “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo del Toro regresses from perhaps his finest film hour to his among his greatest misfires in the action-packed but story-miscued film about a tough-talking hellspawn who wages war against rebellious and ridiculous creatures.

Writer and director Guillermo del Toro tries on Hellboy's right hand of doom on the set of Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Writer and director Guillermo del Toro tries on Hellboy’s right hand of doom on the set of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”.
Photo credit: Egon Endrenyi, copyright Universal Studios

If you recall 2004’s “Hellboy” at all, it’s not likely because of the $60 million in domestic dollars the film raked in theatrically or its $100 million worldwide total in theaters. Rather, “Hellboy” earned cult-following status from its subsequent DVD release. It’s that launch pad that’s propelling “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” with steam in 2008.

But while the film will show an improved box-office balance sheet and critically is earning rave reviews, don’t be fooled by the hype machine. Guillermo del Toro delivers the Hollywood filet mignon we’ve come to expect wrapped nicely in all the special-effects bacon we’ve come to desire but without the heart we’ve come to demand.

Do we care about any of these characters? Do we care if this one actually falls in love or if that one actually lives or dies or if this one makes amends or if that one comes to terms with destiny? What we do feel isn’t for the characters, their missions or the performances they deliver.

All we do feel is gypped that Hollywood took our 10 movie bucks and gave us flat characters, forced plotlines and ultimately a mediocre movie experience.

The initial adolescent Hellboy backstory begins with Montse Ribé – yes, a female – as the young Hellboy. She’s credited with doing special effects makeup for Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and should stay in the special effects and makeup departments instead of behing handed her first acting role.

Ruthless leader Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) challenges his enemy in Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Ruthless leader Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) challenges his enemy in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”.
Photo credit: Double Negative, copyright Universal Studios

The child acting and costuming weakly stood out larger than even kid Hellboy’s right hand of doom.

Ron Perlman as Hellboy and “A”-gamer Selma Blair return as a duo from Guillermo del Toro’s first iteration of “Hellboy” in 2004. This time around, we’re treated to the same mediocrity spewed upon us then. What we didn’t expect – and what wasn’t advertised – is that the most interesting characters in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” were in fact the supplementary ones.

Writer and director Guillermo del Toro holds Hellboy's revolver on the set of Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Writer and director Guillermo del Toro holds Hellboy’s revolver on the set of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”.
Photo credit: Egon Endrenyi, copyright Universal Studios

Ancillary creations Abe Sapien and Johann Kraus and their respective performances from Doug Jones and James Dodd (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) had the right idea the rest of the film fatally ignored. Now these organisms – Abe as an aquatic “merman” and Johann as a disembodied ectoplasmic spirit – had charm, intrigue and character appeal.

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As well, we can appreciate the ruthless creature leader Luke Goss as the spear-fanatical Prince Nuada and the saccharine Anna Walton as the interestingly entwined Princess Nuala. This brother-and-sister duo earns scripting props.

But “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” isn’t about them. While the four supplementary characters deliver admirable supporting roles and performances, the film ultimately leaves you feeling “eh” because at its heart is a superhero who’d be just as fine fighting adversaries as he is taking a nap or petting a cat.

Following a magnum opus in “Pan’s Labyrinth” and a red-hot backfire in “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” Guillermo del Toro raises a red, hit-or-miss flag on his upcoming blockbuster projects “The Hobbit” in 2011 and “The Hobbit 2” directly after in 2012.

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” which is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Doug Jones, John Hurt and Jeffrey Tambor, opened everywhere on July 11, 2008. editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


© 2008 Adam Fendelman,

Robert Essary's picture

In my mind, when a movie

In my mind, when a movie gets more good reviews than bad, it’s a hit (critically anyways). Now all it needs is box office success. Might want lower that red flag, until Sunday.

Anonymous's picture

Don't be so sure

Don’t be so sure. I haven’t seen this film yet, but the concensus at Rotten Tomatoes from the critics seems very unusual in that it’s so overwhelmingly positive. I saw the first movie and this is definitely a love it or hate it kind of movie. Im sure this one will be in the same vein but i actually respect this critic and review for challenging the norm on this one. time will tell, I’ll be seeing it this weekend.

Robert Essary's picture

I went to a 5:15 showing

I went to a 5:15 showing and the room was packed! I had to sit three rows from the sreen, on the outside of the row. I thought it was great and enjoyed it a lot more than the first! Usually, when a movie gets mostly positive reviews, it raises my expectations too high and I don’t enjoy the movie as much as I would have, if I didn’t read the reviews before hand. Not the case with Hellboy 2. Everyone in the theater seemed to like it as well. In response to your post, I want to say that I respect his opinion but I felt like he was jumping the gun, with his statements in the last paragraph, of his review. to say that a movie is a “red hot back fire” and “raises a red hit or miss flag” when the film is getting very positive reviews and hasn’t had time to show if it is going to be a financial succsess or not, is a little over dramatic. I think by definition, a film would have to flop critically and financially, in order for his statements in the last paragraph to be credible. I think the most he could have said, within reason was, he didn’t like the movie, stated why and then stopped there. thats my opinion and I respect his and yours. I would like to know if you liked Hellboy 2? let me know after you’ve watched it.



Anonymous's picture

Not worth the hype.

My girlfriend and I almost walked out during this movie. I was expecting something real. This was a hollow, boring remake without a novel story line or a novel character in it-by novel I’m not just comparing it to the first movie. The acting by Ron Perlman seemed cocky, and I could care less about his character during the whole movie. I honestly think that the critics were paid off—except for a few like this one—because I believe they’re smarter than the average movie person. I expect them to like intelligent movies with unique characters that we can develop an emotion for. It never made the case as to why we humans were better than the underground trolls. Why should they be forced into hiding, are they really evil? This movie never made that case, so I was emotionless throughout. In fact, this movie taught us that it is ok to have prejudices. I paid to see a blah story, poor acting, and a pointless plot. People are dumbed down to fall for a hyped-up movie because they want to be positive about spending $10. I was insulted by the lack of intelligence in this movie because the director thought he could make more money off of a block-headed movie. It really showed a lack of his ingenuity. Bottom-line this movie is a disappointment that I would never recommend to the next person—unless I assume that their IQ is under 100.

Anonymous's picture

Most Over-hyped Movie This Summer...

First Hellboy = great. Great story, great pacing, great comedy. Hellboy II = sucked. It was almost as if the actors, writer, and everyone involved in the development of this movie knew that regardless of the end-product, the fanboys and other hype-machines would carry this movie to the top…and it looks like they were right. I mean, the character of Hellboy is cocksure, no doubt - but Perlman actually makes him a real prick in this movie. The first movie gave a sense of empathy to HB, this one makes you want him to get his face kicked in and NOT GET UP. So please, can we just call it a day and let the HB series die at 2? Someone please go fund a “Serenity” sequel, and let HB 3 be straight to DVD.

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