More than anything, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a visual feast, or rather, a visual all you can eat buffet. Director Guillermo Del Toro's creativity is exhibited in the forms of monsters who are hideous yet at the same time beautiful. In a scene where the Bureau members walk through a troll market, I was left astounded by the brilliant variety of ghouls that Del Toro has served up for us in this magnificent display. Del Toro must have been running the makeup team ragged with his wild imagination. On that note, Hellboy II is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup. Attention to detail and consistent diversity amongst the creatures makes the film a never ending source of magic and whimsy. Del Toro's love for the characters and their world shines through with unyielding brightness. Aside from the stunning landscapes and creatures, Del Toro also paces the film very well, not allowing the film to crumble under its own weight. Once you make it past the cheesy, cornballish first 15 minutes or so, entertainment ensues for the remaining 95.
When you are covered with makeup and prosthetics, it can be difficult to fully convey emotions and actions properly. The actors in Hellboy II do a very good job of making their costumes complete non factors in their performances. Watching a group of abnormal beings portray familiar human emotions, such as love and shame, makes you forget that Hellboy has the right hand of doom and that Abe is essentially a talking fish. All you recognize is how similar to us these misunderstood creatures are. Ron Perlman is great as the gruff, rebellious Hellboy. His ability to maintain an intimidating exterior while cracking jokes and smoking cigars makes Hellboy a likeable character despite his "lone wolf" ideals. Unlike recent superhero flick Hancock, Hellboy succeeds in combining humor and drama because it doesn't lay it on too thick. Earlier in his career, Perlman donned excessive makeup for his role as Vincent in television series Beauty and the Beast. This experience most likely made playing Hellboy somewhat familiar to Perlman, and it really shows in this film. Hellboy's relationship with Liz is a recognizable one, reminding me of a normal couple dealing with normal problems. The actors really do a terrific job of making you sympathize with the characters as you would another person. Another man who is no stranger to prosthetics, Doug Jones reprises his role as the all knowing amphibious being Abe Sapien. In the first Hellboy, David Hyde Pierce provided the voice of Abe but refused crediting because he felt that Jones really did all the work. Pierce pretty much hit the nail on the head. In Hellboy II, Jones does even more work providing his own voice and the difference is practically negligible. What makes Abe such an interesting character are his mannerisms and his impressive ability to know EVERYTHING. Since the latter characteristic is uncontrollable, Jones had to make this weird fish man a delight to see on screen, and he does. We also get to see the romantic side of Abe when he falls in love with the enemies sister. Forbidden love is always awesome (and in this case hilarious). My absolute favorite part of this film was new character Johann Krauss, the team's new leader that was called in to watch over Hellboy. Krauss was played by 3 different people: James Dodd, John Alexander, and Seth MacFarlane. Addressing the work done by MacFarlane, I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that the creator of Family Guy, the man who does the voice of Peter Griffin, was in Hellboy II as a German ectoplasmic scientist. He also did a great job of matching the voice with the motions of Krauss, that were acted out by either Dodd or Alexander. A thoroughly entertaining character, Krauss' level-headed mindset and brilliant psychic abilities make him a formidable match against the brute force of Hellboy.
Hellboy II is not a terrific film though, as it does have it's fair share of infirmities. I briefly stated before that the first 15 minutes are a bit rough to get through. That might be giving it too much credit. In comparison to the rest of the film, the first 15 minutes seemed like a different movie altogether. I almost completely lost interest as I watched an awkward young Hellboy beg his father to read him a bedtime story. Clumsily shot, horribly acted, altogether unappealing to watch, I feared this movie was over before it even got started. Luckily because of Del Toro's ability to tell a story, I soon became entangled in this movies web. Although, the storyline itself was a bit difficult to appreciate. It was a little too familiar for my taste. A superhero that isn't favored by the public and must fight his own demons is a recipe that has been used in too many dishes (Spiderman, Batman, Hancock). The message of acceptance of everybody despite our differences has been played for years (All 3 X-Men films), and is becoming redundant now. It was also unrealistic to see not a single person stand up for Hellboy. In a scene where Hellboy saves a baby from a car about to be destroyed, not one person in the crowd shouts a positive comment. Every person is portrayed as close minded and arrogant. Even in a world of monsters, that seems a bit unrealistic.
Although not perfect and not quite as good as Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II is energetic and amusing throughout. With an enchanting score from Danny Elfman, the action sequences in Hellboy II are a thrill to behold. They do not run too long and they do not indulge in blurry CGI. You can see everything that happens clearly, something that recent action films don't offer (Transformers, Spiderman 3). I was not a big fan of the first film so I did not expect much from this one. I was pleasantly surprised. With just the right mix of humor and action and a plethora of beautiful creatures, Hellboy II is smashing summer fun that could be appreciated by all ages. My rating (7/10)
Oh yea, there is also the funniest rendition of a Barry Manilow song EVER.