Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army *1/2

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Luke Goss, Anna Walton

The minute when quantity was confused with quality and self gratification mistaken for artistic vision, Guillermo del Toro became a successful filmmaker.
Boasting more strange creatures than a "Star Wars" brothel, this sequel to "Hellboy" begins by telling the story of a truce made by humans and mythical creatures ages ago to end a war that involved the title army.
Flash forward to our era where the truce is about to be broken by the rebel Prince Nuada (Goss) who believes the human race has done enough harm to the planet and plans to bring the golden army back to life to destroy civilization.
With this threat reaching beyond usual parameters, it's up to the members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development to stop Nuada from his goal.
The most notorious member of the bureau is Hellboy (Perlman), the troubled demon who is now going through a rebellion against authority while he deals with his relationship with the fiery Liz (Blair).
Coming back is also Ben Sapien (Jones), the fish like erudite who develops a crush on Nuada's twin sister, the noble Princess Nuala (Walton).
Working with baroque myths and tracing back fairy tale elements to reasonable and logical sources, del Toro delivers a visual spectacle the likes of which only he knows how to do.
There's action and detail going in almost every thing in the film, with creatures springing from unexpected places and layered setpieces that demand to be seen in awe.
But unlike better filmmakers del Toro has never been able to justify his need to put all these things up on the screen and much less why the audience needs to pay a movie ticket to endure this constant selfidulgement.
It's good that his ensemble sometimes takes your mind off this, with the phenomenal Perlman making the movie all his own (despite the forced dialogues which wink at you more than they should). The characters however always are left on a second plane, while del Toro pushes himself into the realm of "what next?".
Style over substance doesn't always have to be a bad thing and in fact it can be very good when it's worked for a reason other than to exploit art direction and visual effects, but del Toro isn't very apt in this sense and during one key scene when one of the characters could perform a simple action that would save us a whole hour of film (without taking into consideration the unused factor of dramatic tension) del Toro instead chooses to unleash an unnecesary gigantic creature with which he sends out an environmentalist message and shows off his imagination's works.
Hellboy and the others end up looking like incompetent idiots, but let's face it, in "Hellboy" it's a del Toro world, and not even his characters are invited.

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