Film Review: Hellboy II

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“Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has started to look like a legitimate successor to Ovid. Del Toro is not so much a creator of myths as a collector of them, a transhistorical myth nerd whose pantheon of influences ranges from Hesiod to Harryhausen (with liberal helpings of steam punk and Catholic iconography).”Dana Stevens,

The thing that startled me the most about “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” was that the emotional climax of the film, at least for me, didn’t involve any of the main characters. Instead, the longest and most lingering sadness comes after a confrontation with a forest elemental. I won’t give anything away, but this scene, and several smaller scenes like it throughout “Hellboy”, underscore a theme director Guillermo del Toro has been exploring through much of his work. Most notably in the Academy Award-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth”. The conflict between a world filled with enchantment, and one that denies the imagination, that eradicates the sacredness of our world.

Hellboy vs. the forest elemental.

While the representation of soulless clockwork progress is represented by Spanish fascists in “Pan’s Labyrinth”, in “The Golden Army” humanity itself is suspect. As the Christianity Today review ponders: “Is the human race worth saving?”

“In the original Hellboy, the villains were adversaries like demons, Nazis, gods of chaos, assassins and necromancers—characters understood to be evil more or less by nature or by definition … Hellboy II shifts from this kind of mythic good-vs-evil storytelling to something more like classical mythology, with variously flawed characters on all sides.”

The character of Hellboy, wanting nothing more than to be “out” and loved by the people he secretly protects, is stunned when he isn’t greeted as a hero and is instead treated as a spectacle at best, and a danger at worst. The movie asks, in a variety of ways, should he really be on humanity’s side? Does humanity, with its various sins against a dying world of faerie, and an increasingly poisoned Earth, even deserve saving? The film never directly answers that question, though you can be fairly certain that Del Toro himself would prefer a humanity that didn’t seem so eager to do away with the strange and fantastical.

Guillermo del Toro supports HETFET!

Of course “Hellboy” is also a big summer action film, and there are plenty of explosions, fights, comedic moments, and one-liners to please those who want nothing more than two hours of entertainment. However, unlike the stupid and nihilistic “Wanted”, or the enjoyable but uneven “Incredible Hulk”, Del Toro wraps his entry into Summer blockbuster season with layers of insight and deeper meaning for those looking for something more. What other summer blockbuster can successfully pen love-letters to James Whale and Hayao Miyazaki while including a Barry Manilow sing-along?

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” isn’t “Pan’s Labyrinth”, but it is an enjoyable Summer film that reaches further than any genre film is expected to. Do yourself a favor and experience the amazing visuals on a big screen, you’ll be glad you did. Wild Hunt approved and recommended!