Monday, 25 August 2008

Hellboy II : The Golden Army (12A)

Tucked in amongst this summers blockbusters is the new film by much lauded director Guillermo Del Toro. The man responsible for the award-winning visual feast of Pan’s Labyrinth has this time contrived a similarly stunning piece of artful cinema, cleverly disguised as a mainstream box-office winner for mass audiences in this follow-up to his 2004 introduction to this franchise.

Ron Perlman reprises his role as the lead character, a comic-book creation who is a demon originally brought to earth by Nazi Occultists, and who now works for the US government as undercover agent for the top-secret Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. Big, dumb and brutish as he is, the macho man-mountain isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, and suffers from being insecure and short-tempered, but what he lacks in brains he makes up for in heart.

The film sees the big man in the early stages of his relationship with Selma Blair’s character Liz Sherman, a woman who has the gift of being able to turn into fire at will. Jokes about being too hot to handle aren’t too far wide of the mark, as the action sees the new couple partaking of the petty arguments that accompany moving in together, and adjusting to one another’s differences and flaws.

This domestic stuff is mostly handled with a light touch, and unfolds whilst the world once more needs saving from the forces of evil. This comes in the shape of no less than Luke Goss, who almost exactly reprises his character in Blade II, as a long-haired pale goth-like Prince Nuada. He seeks to reunite the pieces of magical crown which gives the holder the power to control the mythic clockwork ‘Golden Army’, and allow his Elven creed to rule over the human race.

All this mythic stuff gives Del Toro licence to play to his strengths and create a rich visual world of characters combining the weird and wonderful likes of creatures in the Lord of The Rings trilogy and the Star Wars movies. Aesthetically, a lot of it utilises puppetry and prosthetics over CGI, which does play a part in augmenting rather than dominating the screen.The effect is magical, and stunning.

Perlman is excellent as the misunderstood, overly sensitive giant, rejected by an unsympathetic human race yet willing to fight for it’s survival, while having more in common with the otherworldly creatures he is sent out to destroy. The rather sexy Selma Blair (previously seen snoggging Neve Campbell in Cruel Intentions) is there for more than decoration also, as a strong female in a mans’ world.

Overall, then it’s a beautifully baroque creation of elves, trolls and demons battling it out, but somewhat let down by a lack of urgency and pace, but still worth it for sheer escapism, beauty and fun.

Hack Rating: 2/5

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