Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: Fantasy Violence
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
John Alexander and James Dodd as Johann Krauss
Seth MacFarlane as Johann Krauss (voice)
Luke Goss as Prince Nuada Silverlance
Anna Walton as Princess Nuala
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Director: Guillermo del Toro
The evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is hell-bent on bringing the Golden Army to life, which will help him to conquer the world. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his team join forces to defeat the callous ruler.
The first Hellboy movie released back in 2004 was quite good, it was a unique and weirder comic book movie for the time, was really entertaining, and worked really well, largely working because of Guillermo del Toro’s direction and of course Ron Perlman as the titular character. It’s hard to imagine it but Hellboy 2 manages to be on another level over the first movie. It improves in just about every level from the characters, the story, the direction, everything.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army much like the first movie is another large scale epic world ending story, however you really notice some stark differences. First of all, whereas the first movie was supernatural and gothic, The Golden Army leans into being more fantasy. Additionally, as much as I liked the first Hellboy, there were parts of it that felt like del Toro was a little constrained, despite some of the unique aspects that he added. An example is the human character of Myers (played by Ruper Evans), who was positioned as the main character, central protagonist, and audience surrogate for the movie. He really did feel like a studio-mandated addition rather than anything anyone in the film cared about, and pretty much everyone agrees that film could’ve done without him. It seems that del Toro is one of those people who agreed, since Myers written out of the sequel, with a couple of lines explaining about how he was moved to Antarctica. With this moment, you can really tell that del Toro is having a lot more freedom with this movie, and was really making a pure del Toro movie rather than a movie that’s just mostly del Toro. The first Hellboy felt quite dense and expositional with its story, even if I enjoyed watching it. The sequel however has a far more free moving story that feels attached to the compelling plot and is well structured, but manages to effortlessly add themes as well as intimate and character moments in between it all that. The movie has a thematical and emotional core and you actually feel for the human sides of these characters. Hellboy 2 also has way more personality and charm than its predecessor. It takes itself a lot more seriously than the first Hellboy, but also has its fair share of jokes and humour, especially with sharp and witty dialogue. Hellboy 1 had humour but it’s more noticeable here and in a good way, it’s actually partly key to the film’s success. It’s often times character-based humour and makes them more endearing, rather than just going for an easy laugh. With an astounding balance of tone and an engaging story, Hellboy 2 just gets it all right.
The cast and characters are all great. Ron Perlman is once again perfect as Hellboy, his work in the first film was already solid but he really makes the character his own in The Golden Army. His character is more interesting, whereas he could’ve disappeared under all the prosthetics and makeup, his performance here feels even more honest and confident. The rest of the cast and characters are where you notice the greatest improvements however. With the supporting characters, the first movie didn’t give them much room to grow (and was also saddled with an incredibly generic and forgettable audience surrogate). They changed that here and allowed their characters to be explored a little more. Selma Blair as Liz Sherman was decent in the first movie but felt rather underdeveloped, and it felt like they didn’t really know what to do with her character. Here she’s a lot more well realised and was great. One of the best characters in the first Hellboy was Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, unfortunately he’s not in that movie much and didn’t have that much involvement with the story, not beyond the first half anyways. Here, he’s one of the main characters, that was definitely welcome, and the script really gave Doug Jones a lot to do. Interestingly in the first movie, Jones only performed the physical part, while David Hyde Pierce provided the voice. In Hellboy 2 though, Jones gets to play vocal duties as well and gives such a great performance, among his best work. Jones also played a couple of other characters that had prosthetics, and as to be expected, he plays those roles very well too. The new additions of actors and characters were good too. The character Johann Krauss was a surprisingly solid and unique addition to the cast. He’s an interesting character, whose values and overall personality directly challenge and differ with Hellboy’s, leading to a lot of conflict between the two. Krauss overall is also quite a unique character for both the Hellboy movies and other comic book movies, I particularly like the moments when the film takes advantage of his powers. Seth MacFarlane voiced Krauss and I think this is actually his best work to date. Despite playing him with a hammy German accent, he plays the role surprisingly straight faced (or rather straight voiced) and was more reserved than you’d expect from him. One of the weakest parts of the first Hellboy was the villains, specifically the lead villain Rasputin. This time in Hellboy 2, Luke Goss plays the villain, and he’s a much more interesting villain this time around, he was actually somewhat memorable and fitted the story quite well.
Guillermo del Toro directed Hellboy 2, and you really notice a step up 4 years between the two movies. He was key to the success of the first movie, without him, audiences would not have gotten such an original and iconic on this character. Don’t forget that del Toro got more freedom and a higher budget this time round, and he thankfully took great advantage of this. The film boasts some gorgeous cinematography and production designs. The Golden Army is definitely a more fantastical story instead of a fantastical one, and the aesthetic really benefits from that too. There’s also some amazing digital and practical effects, that mostly hold up quite well today. The designs of characters, monsters and creatures are also fantastic. Right after making Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro went all in with the creative designs of creatures and monsters. From the design of the elves to the Golden Army themselves, to even some of the slightly altered designs of Hellboy and Abe, they look incredible. There’s particularly a segment that takes place in a Troll Market, which mixes digital and practical effects and feels like a showcase of all the amazing effects that it had to offer. The action is fast paced, well filmed and very entertaining. The score by Danny Elfman was quite good as well, and fits the rest movie well.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is an incredibly entertaining and well-made comic book movie, taking what made the first Hellboy so good and improving on both its strong and weaker points. It has an entertaining fantastical story, a greater grasp of the characters, as well as Guillermo Del Toro’s direction with noticeably more freedom. They all come together to form one of del Toro’s strongest works. One of the biggest cinematic disappointments is that del Toro never got to make Hellboy 3, he clearly had such a great handle on the characters and would’ve been wonderful to have seen that happen.