Guillermo del Toro
Weve been at no loss for superhero blockbusters this summer. From classics like Batman to the more satirical Hancock, even the most die hard of comic-book fans could start to weary. It seems the trick is in attempting to reinvent the genre. Both Iron Man and The Hulk casted against type, with actors like Robert Downey Jr., Edward Norton, and Tim Roth. Hancock was the anti-hero superhero. But of all these, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, helmed by Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro, seems best poised to achieve the goal of making an entertaining action movie that also doubles as a good film.
Were introduced to a young Hellboy (or Red, as hes known to loved ones) on Christmas Eve. His adoptive father is telling him a bedtime story about an ancient feud between humans and the elf kingdom. The greed of the human race causes the destruction of the world of the elves. The elf king creates an indestructible force, the Golden Army, merciless killers. Regretting the loss of life, the elf king calls a truce with mankind, and has the Golden Army locked away. But as the audience knows, and Hellboy will soon find out, this bedtime story is more fact than fiction.
Adult Red and his supernatural A-team made up of fiery girlfriend Liz, fishy pal Abe, and Kraut robot Johann Krauss soon find themselves in battle against elf Prince Nuada. Pop may have been happy enough to leave the human race be, Prince Nuada has been waiting to seize power and raise The Golden Army. While bringing about all this mayhem, Nuada also hopes to sway Hellboy and co. to his side, attempting to convince them that they are more a part of his world than ours.
Signature del Toro touches make the film visually striking. Early on we are treated to tooth-fairies, more Tinkerbell-piranha hybrid than the friendly fairytale we tell our kids. Anyone who has seen the Oscar winning Pans Labyrinth will recognize the imaginative genius del Toro possesses for other-worldly grotesque. But this feast for the eyes serves to highlight the disappointments of the Hellboy concept. One wonders if less time should have been spent on the visual delights and more (much more) on the storyline.
As a hero, Hellboy should have an above average complexity. This demon, the son of Satan no less, was raised by humans and fights to protect them, despite their fear and revulsion of him. His lack of moral ambiguity makes Hellboy far less compelling than he could be. Even more curious, all the humans are a gigantic pain in the ass. From people coming up to him calling him ugly to the hysterical ungrateful mother who is too stupid to realize that Hellboy has just saved her babys life, these people are barely worth saving. So why is Hellboy fighting for them? Dunno.
If del Toro knows what this film about, hes done his best to keep it a secret from us. With only a vague notion of what is at stake, there isnt enough tension to sustain interest, and this shows in the passionless action scenes. What the film comes down to is not a battle for humanity, but the bonds of love between the main characters, most of whom are willing to destroy the world for the sake of each other. They are meant to be loveable freaks, but it is their love for each other that shuts us, as an audience, out.