The Golden Army (2008)
The movie's protagonists are all given enough personality so that the viewer is readily able to engage with them. Hellboy himself is gruff, quarrelsome, thick-headed, and too eager to be liked by others. He is also, however, shown as being genuinely decent, and his love for Liz is always clear. Liz's aggravations with her demonic boyfriend are also made obvious (as is the fact that she is justified in being aggravated), but her affection for Hellboy is just as apparent. Abe too is nicely brought to life. The moviegoer is sure to feel his loneliness, and to understand how he comes to fall in love with Nuada's sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), who joins forces with the protagonists in order to stop her brother's ambitions. Even the villain, Nuada himself, is nicely realized. He is not some cackling fiend, but a sympathetic person. By fighting to save his people against mankind's aggressions, it is he who is in the right rather than the heroes.
The environment inhabited by these persons is as nicely realized as they are themselves. The director successfully conjures up a fantastic world hidden somewhere behind the façade of that in which we ordinarily live. He reveals elven courts concealed in urban squalor, a wild, weird "troll market" underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, and a ruined subterranean city below the hills of Northern Ireland. All of these places have a distinctly magical feel to them, and all are populated by some impressively strange monsters.
The film's core is, however, made of its action sequences, and these are, without exception, truly exciting. For instance, in one early in the movie, when Hellboy and his associates arrive at the auction house from which Nuada stole the part of the crown he needed to control the golden army, they are attacked by swarms of "tooth fairies," small, winged insect-like fiends that strip the flesh from their victims to get at the teeth and bones upon which they feed. The heroes' battle against the creatures, in which many of their human colleagues do not fare well, is, at once, thrilling, strangely humorous, and even a little grisly. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Del Toro, happily, includes many other sequences that are just as good. Hellboy's battle with a "forest god," a giant, plant-like being released by Nuada that rampages through a city street, is well staged, again infused with dark humor (in this case by having Hellboy juggle a baby he is trying to rescue, even tossing the tyke into the air and holding it with his prehensile tail as he clambers up the side of a building), and includes some sense of morality (when Nuada reveals that the forest god is the last of its kind and that, if Hellboy kills his enemy, he will be destroying such beings forever). In fact, the number of these scenes is substantial. Whether Hellboy is shown engaging in a balletic fight with Nuada himself, in a brutal boxing match with a huge, lumbering troll, or in an attack upon an entire army, the director gives real life to the sequence. Thanks to these scenes, which comprise a large portion of the movie, Hellboy II is always entertaining.
In fact, while I will hardly claim that Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a great movie, it is a great deal of fun to watch.
Review by Keith Allen
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