Hellboy II

I've got to admit, I rolled my eyes in the first ten minutes of Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Not because of something onscreen that was so ridiculous, but that the something onscreen was a standard plot convention. It turned out to be ominous foreshadowing; Hellboy II is a pure mainstream follow-up to Hellboy, and by that I mean a mere pretty shadow of the genius that was the first film.It's just disappointing to see a frachnise that had a different kind of hero, of mythos, of humor be taken down a notch. Guillermo del Toro certainly brought his imaginative vision to the project, but frankly forgot to apply it to the PLOT or SCRIPT. Of course, the masses loved it, and even super-brain Walter Chaw gave it four stars. In reading his insightful take on the religious overtones of the picture, I was excited going in:
    His early proclamation that his goal is to remind humans of what it is to fear the dark is an essential, archetypical thing along the lines of Yeats' sylvan mythology, with us as the lost children in mortal peril of forgetting from whence we spawned and that which we believe to have dispelled with the light of reason and science. It's not a religious picture, it's a proto-religious picture. As one of the arch-baddies is revealed to be a green earth elemental, the death of whom announces the extinction of something wild and savage, Hellboy II shows itself to be a terminus film about this moment in time when humans find themselves struggling with the responsibility of their stewardship of the planet. In its way, the picture is Del Toro's manifestation of John Milton's "Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity": a parade of pagan gods marching to their annihilation before the obliterating intolerance of Christian faith, seen here as a truce signed by creatures who have it in their nature to honour it even though it means their banishment to sewers and deep forests. The warning embedded in the picture is that the beings we elevate as saviours are the same ones who will eventually be responsible for the end of times. It sounds familiar. It ought to.
Alas, all that undertone and masterful subtlety doesn't make up for what feels like a rushed film (blame the editing, if you will, but the problem is there), stunted (if ANY) character development (especially compared to the layers presented in the original), and inexplicable dramatic devices (is there ANY reason that Hellboy should be carting around the baby from the smashed car while confronting the green giant beast except to say, "You woke up the baby!!"? It feels like del Toro --and co-screenwriter Mike Magnola (let's share the blame -- he is the creator of Hellboy, after all) -- tried to crib from the original where Hellboy is saving the kittens while battling the demon in the subway.).

I'm just bitter because it could have been so much more. It really did have a lot of entertaining scenes, especially between Hellboy/Liz and Abe/Nualla; their juxtaposition was the highlight of the film. So, all said, I don't regret spending money to see it in the theater, and I'll likely ring it up on DVD when available.

But, sometimes I lack perspective; when I compare it to Hancock, a solid if (again) too-short film, Hellboy II is clearly superior, but it could have been so much more, so I'm giving it a lower grade. Damn it -- now I'm sounding dangerously close to those teachers I had in high school who graded me different from the other students because they expected more. Oh well; the circle is now complete.

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