Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

In 2004 I did a review of the first Hellboy movie starring Ron Pearlman and written in part and directed by Guillermo del Toro. The truth is I didn’t really like that movie, was somewhat disappointed and a whole lot confused. I was a little reluctant to see Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, (HB2), that is, until I had seen the trailers and heard that the creature team from the wonderful movie Pan’s Labyrinth was involved and I knew that Guillermo del Toro had done such a wonderful job with Pan’s Labyrinth.

A recent watching of the original Hellboy movie with Pearlman, yes the very one I was more than a little critical of in 2004 had me enjoying the original movie more the second time than I did the first. While this isn’t the norm for me, neither is it rare for me, it does on occasion happen as I assume it does for most of us.
The start of HB2 resembled the first movie; there is the background that is provided complete with the origin of Hellboy’s love for Baby Ruth candy bars and more. There is also some additional background provided regarding Hellboy’s teen years. This helps set up the plot of the movie and is welcomed storyline. There is also the associations and questions that remain, for example, is Hellboy from Hell, is he an angel, is he a demon, what exactly is he? I think I have learned to appreciate, at least in my own viewing habits the pondering of those types of questions, you know? Questions where there isn’t always answers and questions that causes the viewer to engage in the story and to try and figure some things out.

One of the things I appreciated about HB2 is the development of character, and the inward struggles and confusion we see Hellboy going through. He has struggles on everything from acceptance, to missing his adoptive father, and from love to his acceptance by the human race. I have always appreciated and respected Ron Pearlman, and while he will become noted for this character, I would have loved to have seen more of his expressions. He does a great job though using his voice tones and overcoming the limitations of the make-up involved in his character. Unfortunately though, even with the wonderful creature effects, we lose much of Pearlman’s wonderful expressions. He is a great actor, and only an actor like Pearlman could pull off a character like Hellboy.
This time around, the story line and plot do a much better job at developing character. Not just Hellboy, but all of the characters. We see additional development and struggle from Liz Sherman, the love interest of Hellboy played by Selma Blair. One of my favorite character developments this time around though is the development of Abe Sapien, an intelligent; man fish like character that kind of resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon. In all of the characters we see the inward struggle of coming to an understanding of who they are, what they are here for, and their own lack of humanness, and appreciation from the human species. There is the use of drama, comedy, and great emotion often filled with humor. Each character, and each actor playing their parts does a wonderful job here.

HB2 is laced with spiritual questions. Apart from trying to figure out if Hellboy is an angel, or demon is the idea that he carries a cross. We see Liz constantly wearing a cross. There are other things though. There is one scene where the temptation of Christ is played off of. There is Hellboy a top of a business sign, high in the city, being tempted and confronted with serving and saving self and forgetting about serving or saving the human species. In the background is a lighted cross, and a movie marquee that says, “Get Saved.” Again, for me at least, the questions continue. We see battles and discussions taking place in the shadows of statues that resemble angels and much more. While the blatant discussion of God isn’t in the movie per say, it is certainly strongly evident in the images of the movie.

There are other significant spiritual overtones, the concept of the need to care for the planet is sure to be one of those that get some of the conservatives upset. I never could figure out the harm of that, but that message is there, but an even greater message, and a message that hit home far more this time than last time for me, is the willingness of Hellboy to sacrifice himself, to give up his own comforts, and own desire in order to sacrifice himself to care for a population of people who don’t even like him, who mock him, spit on him, make fun of him. Yet Hellboy in this regard takes on a Messiah and Savior concept that one can’t help but make some comparisons to Jesus.

I left this movie with even more questions in one regard than I did the first Hellboy. I left with a much different attitude though, for me, HB2 resurrects the story of Hellboy. It took a number of years to do this follow up. I am glad, it seems as if everyone involved has put a quality story, with good special effects, and solid entertainment mixed in with spiritual questions for all of us to consider. While not perfect, and maybe not even the best movie this summer, Hellboy was a worthwhile movie, and in some ways, it may be the most thought provoking movie of the summer. I can’t promise the same for you, but I can say this is a movie that if you go in searching and looking, you will find and appreciate some of the answers provided, and the search for truth of those other questions will be well worth the journey.

While Hellboy received a mediocre review from me, this one is at least twice as good so I am doubling that original rating of a 4 that I gave Hellboy and am saying that Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is deserving of at the very least a 8.5

Now here are a couple of trailers for your enjoyment. Double click on the video below, if it don't show, just click on the link.

Ron Pearlman Interview

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