Friday, July 11, 2008

Hellboy 2 Review- Surprise: it rocks!

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 2004's Hellboy was mostly a dull, plodding movie. Every once and a while there were flashes of potential from the creative team: a crackling one-liner, an iconic image, a piece of hard-hitting action, a great character moment. But on the whole, the whole thing felt watered-down, forced, and a waste of talent. Rumor has it that studio suits interfered, as they're wont to do, with the creative vision of the director. But that director was Guillermo Del Toro, whose next film, the visionary Pan's Labrynth, won three Academy Awards, received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and got a whopping 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This time, the studio suits politely stood out of his way. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is at once an altogether superior sequel as well as a highly entertaining standalone adventure movie. The characters are terrific, the action sequences genuinely thrilling, the comedy hits the mark (it rarely did in the first film), and the visual design is at times among the most original and unique of anything I've ever seen. Oh, and there's a character who sounds just like Elder Uchdorf, and Selma Blair is quite comely in this. Go see this movie to enjoy the craft of a great director on the rise. You don't have to have seen the first film to enjoy this one; all you need is my brief plot synopsis (after the review) to get you up to speed for the second. For me, this is on par with Iron Man as the summer's best action entertainment so far (The Dark Knight, of course, soon cometh). While no character in this shines as brightly as Robert Downey Jr's ultra-cool Tony Stark, the ensemble here is better, the action is just as good, and the creativity and visual imagery are terrific. Del Toro is contracted to direct The Hobbit, with Peter Jackson producing. Having seen Hellboy II, I'm salivating for that product. Even more complimentary, when I saw Hellboy I didn't care to see the series continue; having seen it's brawny, spunky, and imaginative sequel, I cannot wait for another installment. **** (out of five) (Rated PG-13 for creepy images, action violence).

In 1944, the Nazis open a portal to Hell, hoping to unleash its power on the Earth. Allied soldiers stop it, but not before a newborn demon gets through. Adopted by a paranormal scientist (and man of faith), the creature develops a love for humanity, kittens, and Baby Ruth candy bars. In the present day (he ages differently) he works undercover for the FBI, fighting demons and monsters, with his best friend Abe (who is amphibious and psychic), and the girl of his dreams, Liz (whose superpower is creating and controlling fire). By the end of the movie, Hellboy chooses good over evil and gets the girl, though he loses his father. He yearns to be accepted by the people he's protecting, but the government insists he keep his existence hidden.

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