Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hellboy II? Why the hell not?

So the relatively small action flick, Hellboy, has spawned a sequel.

I enjoyed the first film, but felt like you could almost feel the edges of the film that couldn't be explored as it was written and designed with a certain budget in mind. Multi-million dollar movie, sure... but of an unknown, untested character with some pretty terrific weirdness behind it all.

But I really liked the three main protagonists, with Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and Hellboy. The villains were bizarre and cool, and the threat appropriately apocalyptic for our hero to challenge.


Also, I believe Selma Blair to be sort of a fox.

Mostly, though, I think Ron Perlman is super great as Hellboy. I love the direct, uncomplicated guy who happens to be able to take on world-threatening baddies. All without a Will Smith "Ah, hell naw!" In a lot of ways, Hellboy is sort of a great stand-in for how I think many guys see themselves. Unpleasant, uncouth, and hoping their capable enough working with what they know to get the job done. But a totally different guy when it comes to dealing with their significant other.

The plot has an odd ring of familiarity as so many superhero films have been hitting the screen. A villain with a plan for ending the world, some personal problems, and a nick of time ending. In some ways, the plot of Hellboy II feels, in some ways, a little too much like the plot for Hellboy I, only streamlined. Instead, director Del Toro focuses on the dreamlike imagery you might remember from Pan's Labyrinth, presented on a grander scale.


This looks like the group shots of my prom pictures

And, really, no matter what else you might be skeptical about, Hellboy II is visually stunning. The dialog can be a bit clunky, and the action sequences a bit disorienting, but the creature scenes here are the best mass creature scenes since Luke Skywalker walked into a cantina.

I'm not guaranteeing its the best movie you're going to see, but its a good summer popcorn flick with surprisingly developed characters for a movie starring a red guy with an arm that came from Steelcase.

Del Toro might always have scripts that feel like they could be a bit more developed, but you have to salute him as a visionary. He's able to bring not just cool visuals (which movies like "Chronicles of Riddick do, and yet fail), but also a solid action film with a good deal of heart.

14 comments:

Steven G. Harms said...

I can't resist the Right Hand of Doom.

Although Lauren and I noticed an odd problem here, that you see in The Sandman as well which is, who can win in a fight, Jesus or Santa Claus?

I take Sandman as a case in point: Now as I understand it God is the most powerful thing in the universe. If Lucifer is his right hand man, but now lives on earth as a piano bar player then this is surely the most powerful being on Earth.

So now, what's the status on the “who could win in a fight” between the light-bearer an Morpheus?

In the same way, I find hellboy: Who can win, Anung an-Rama, destroyer of worlds _or_ some Fairy Prince.

Even from the trailer, is the Right Hand, a tool of Apocolyptic Demonic power, vulnerable to _anything_? If no, what's the plot danger ( contra: Kryptonite ).

JMD said...

SPOILER ALERT

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I wasn't so impressed. Though I agree with you on the joy it is to Watch Perlman as Hellboy, I tire of the sci-fi conceit of the super unprofessionally run quasi-governmental agency aimed at quelling the supernatural, i.e. Hellboy, Torchwood, et cetera. I thought the film was largely derivative of early 1980s X-Men (They hate us, they really, really hate us!) and LOTR (goblins, ancient battles and armies, elves, mystical jewelry with which to control them all). I mean, if Liz is willing to torch the world to save HB, if Blue is naive enough hand over control of the most fierce army in history to the uber-baddie all for a girl he met the day before, what kind of agency is this?

The League said...

spoiler alert continued:

Yeah, that's something I didn't focus enough on when describing DelToro's script. It has just a terrific sense of "been there, done that" from so many other movies. They're really counting on the visuals to carry the story more than logic.

To some extent, I forgave the plot driven choice by Blue as something beyond the audience's everyday understanding as some sort of psychic connection, and the first one he'd ever had in over 100 years of living.

I was watching "At the Movies" last night, and they commented that HellBoy, Dark Knight and Hancock all were about super-folk with bad PR. If I had to theorize, its trying to remove the problem that folks have with Superman: Well, he can do all this stuff AND PEOPLE LIKE HIM, and for some reason this means I can't like the character.

As per Steven's questions: It's the old favorite game of comic geeks to try to determine "who would win in a fight, x or z?" And the answer is always: well, it depends.

Steanso said...

(spoiler alert)

I think that you guys are asking an awful lot from a "superhero" comic adapted- summer movie. The plot could have been more developed, but given the time constraints of a two hour movie, it seem like the only way to develop it more would be to span the plot out over a series of movies (which is a tough sell to skeptical studio execs). I liked the characters, both in terms of good guys and bad, and I though the main characters were well developed. And as for turning their backs on humanity in order to save each other- I found it a very legitimate and reasonable dilemna. Why sacrifice your friends for humanity when humanity has done little more than treat you with disdain? I think that this plight involving HB's "PR" situation with humanity is much more a nod toward the Frankenstein's monster, super freak type situation (or Bride of Frankenstein that we see referenced without much subtlety in the movie) than toward a simple X-Men situation (which I always saw as more of a metaphor for race relations).
Anyway, the movie is visually stunning, but they once again gave away far too much in the previews.

The League said...

Certainly that seemed to be where DelToro was going, including clips from "Bride of Frankenstein" right there in the frame on one of HellBoy's many TV's. And while I see Jason's point in the X-Men vs. Frankenstein themes, one could easily, from a plot perspective, draw parallels beween Magneto and the X-men here, as well.


I'd also argue: BPRD isn't much of a well-oiled organization. Then again, having worked for the government, the government isn't much of a well oiled organization where people check their personalities at the door. The team is more of a family than a gaggle of office drones, so it didn't occur t me that Liz Sherman should be thinking of God and Country before the father of her child.

Whichever direction DelToro (X-Men or Monster) was going, I wish he'd committed a little more screen time to giving us a stronger feel for the characters and leave a bit less ambiguity. It certainly was the overarching theme of the film, and if time was a consideration, having folks state their positions
solidly, a la X-Men.

Meredith said...

I haven't seen the movie, so normally would NOT comment. However, I had to chime and and protest the "group shots of my prom pictures" comment......excuse me? I was there at the KO prom and that was NOT the green sequined pageant dress that I was wearing. I was a fox at prom. Not some dude in a latex suit. If you retract that statement, I just MAY see the flick.

The League said...

At the risk of getting in trouble with Jamie, Meredith WAS a fox at prom. I can confirm that as I remember the dress well.

What I DON'T remember is who Meredith went with. I know it wasn't me. I had a lovely date (who is probably not lurking around the blog), but Meredith DID look better than Abe Sapien. I, however, looked like someone put a hobo in a tux.

Meredith said...

You don't recall that I went with the lovely Mr. York? He's an associate pastor at a church in PA now with 5 kids.....

But yes, I do recall your lovely date as well. And how she hated most of us in Ms. Gray's creative writing class. Not sure why.....we were a WILD bunch of heathens in there. One of my fondest KO memories was of the party at Gray's house when she fell in her own pool. Lord we laughed until we cried. Especially Marshall....

The League said...

Just for the record, I think Mere is referring to my high school lady friend, who, as these things happen, I did not go to prom with. Instead, I went with a lovely young lady from a nearby high school. We've been in touch by Facebook, so it's possible Michelle could be lurking here... somewhere...

Steanso said...

Selma Blair is, indeed, reasonably attractive. I was fascinated by the haircut with one side longer than the other. It makes her look like she's moving when she's standing still.
(she also seems a bit like the gorwn up version of a stripey socked goth girl- which, I would suppose, explains some of the League's attraction)

Simon Mac Donald said...

I finally got to see HellBoy II at a $3 matinee this week. I really like the show but it was definitely the visuals that carried the whole thing. I think readers of the HellBoy comic would enjoy the movie more as we already have developed characters in our mind and we can just sit back and enjoy how beautiful Del Toro and Mignola's imagination can be translated onto screen.

The League said...

I've never really read Hellboy. What's a good starting point?

Simon Mac Donald said...

I'd start with Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction. Check your local library as I'm sure they'd have it.

The League said...

Sadly, it was sold out at my LCS. I'll be trying the library up the street. Thanks!