I have no doubt that the notion of a “working man’s” superhero reads great on the written page. Hellboy is such a character, but for the second time on the big screen he really fails to be all that engaging. He’s a big brute with an attitude that is easy to root for, but with some lame villains and even lamer jokes, director Guillermo del Toro has no choice but to cover up the riddled mess of a script with striking visuals. And that he does. Many of creatures look like leftovers from del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but the film will succeed as a visual feast for those who are looking for nothing more.
Let me know if you’ve heard this one before. Determined to rule the Earth, a rebellious Prince, Guada, from the mythical world (Luke Goss) unleashes an army of hideous creatures to systematically destroy the humans. Called in to stop the threat is Hellboy (Perlman) and his associates, Liz Sherman (Blair), Abe Sapien (Jones), and the newly acquired Johann Kraus (portrayed by Alexander and Dodd, voiced by MacFarlane). They uncover a plot by Prince Guada to acquire all of the pieces to an ancient crown that, once assembled, activates a dormant army of golden machines that only know how to destroy civilizations. On an even more serious note, Liz is secretly pregnant with Hellboy’s child.
No faults are to be found with del Toro’s direction, but his screenplay is another story. Once we are sufficiently awed by the visuals, it quickly becomes apparent that the rest of the production is pretty hollow. Del Toro’s script is sluggish and the story is far from engaging, not to mention it never earns a laugh until Hellboy and Abe down a fridge full of beer. The subplot involving Liz’s pregnancy is half-hashed at most and doesn’t qualify as character development or story progression.
These complaints will be moot for the target audience, which appears to be eight-year-old boys. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast as Hellboy, as his no-nonsense attitude is contagious and he even manages to deliver the groan-inducing jokes with as straight of a face as possible. The rest of the cast isn’t really given a whole lot to do by the script, as they just follow Hellboy around when they’re near him and act scared when he’s in danger. The addition of Johann Kraus does add some more depth to the cast and Seth MacFarlane’s voice work is superb.
Hellboy II will deliver for fans of the original as well as those looking for some summer eye candy. However, in this era of increasingly complex storytelling in this genre, the film falls way short. We’ve come to expect a lot in recent years in terms of storytelling with Batman Begins and its ilk, and Hellboy II still feels like a relic from four years ago that hasn’t evolved with the rest of the field. It’s a shame that del Toro let his lackluster script get in the way of an otherwise visionary piece of work.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language.
Theatrical Release: July 11, 2008
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro. Story by del Toro & Mike Mignola. Based upon the comic book by Mignola.
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Alexander, James Dodd, Seth MacFarlane (voice)