Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Rating – ****

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A brilliant character driven fantasy. Hellboy II is funny and visually stunning, surpassing the original in scope and ambition. When it boils down to it, the formula for Hellboy is the same as Ghostbusters, Men in Black and most standard superhero fables. But this is never the centre of attention, which is the reason it works so well. Yes, they work for the government fighting evil from a secret hideout, but Del Toro quickly makes you feel right at home. At the centre of everything is a dysfunctional group of friends. You really believe that Hellboy and Abe Sapian have a true friendship. One is a satanic apeman with a right hand made of rock, and the other looks like Creature From the Black Lagoon in drag. But with a heartfelt script and honest performances, none of this matters. It’s really refreshing to see 3 dimensions characters in such a fantastical world. Guillermo Del Toro has developed a reputation for making imaginative creatures, and here he surpasses himself. Not only are the designs varied and fresh but the methods used to bring them to the screen are ingenious. Throughout the centrepiece “Troll Market” scene, you are bombarded by beautiful and twisted monsters. Yet CGI is used sparingly, merely enhancing the vast majority of practical makeup effects and animatronics. This bodes well for The Hobbit.

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There are so many great components to this film, not a single scene felt wasted or dull. Everything is still whizzing through my mind and I can’t choose a favourite moment. The beastly old biddy who eats live cats, the molar munching tooth fairy demons, Luke Goss as a ninja elf, or his troll henchman with a retractable bommy-knocker fist on a chain! Another miracle is that Seth Mcfarlane managed to win me over with his voice work as Johan Krauss. His work on Family Guy usually makes me want to punch something, but here he’s found his calling. All he needed was to play a talking ball of gas floating around in a rubber diving suit. Overall, the drunk Barry Manilow sing-along scene with Hellboy and Abe probably ranks highest. It is the defining moment, when every element feels perfectly balanced. Despite the insane circumstances, these two average mates chat about women and get drunk. I thought this was a beautiful scene crystallizing my admiration for Del Toro as one of the most gifted visionaries working on the medium today. Hellboy II is littered with joyous moments of invention, recalling the giddy thrill of the original Star Wars. Films that make you smile all the way to the closing frames are in short supply. With this I was grinning all the way home ….actually, I think I might have scared a few people!

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~ by thewholebuffalo on July 18, 2009.

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