Friday, July 11, 2008

The imaginative bloat of "Hellboy II"

Can there be-- as cliche insists -- too much of a good thing? I'm not sure, but I began to wonder during "Hellboy II: The Golden Army,'' a movie that seems afraid to let a minute pass without introducing one more impressive creature. In this edition, director Guillermo Del Toro's like a generous kid who wants to share every toy in his toy chest. I appreciated the cinematic largess, but wondered whether I was watching inspired creativity or B-movie bloat? Maybe "Hellboy II" offers a bit of both.

When "Pan's Labyrinth" played the Toronto International Film Festival, del Toro told me in an interview that he couldn't have made his eerie, brilliant anti-Fascist fantasy had he not done "Hellboy" first. Del Toro said he learned much from "Hellboy" that became useful to him as he worked on "Pan's Labyrinth."

Watching "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," it struck me that the obviously talented Del Toro, who'll be directing the upcoming "Hobbit" movies, had found himself a new laboratory. The sequel to 2004's "Hellboy" can be seen as an elaborate creature feature, a display of unleashed (and sometimes over-indulged) imagination built around a story that's not nearly as interesting as the movie's visual pyrotechnics.

Ron Perlman returns as the big-fisted, cigar-chomping Hellboy, and Selma Blair and Doug Jones reprise their roles as Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien. This time, Hellboy must stop Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), a brooding warrior who wants to awaken an army of golden soldiers so that he can destroy all mankind. The prince's sister (Anna Walton) doesn't share her brother's ambitions. She's sympathetic to humans.

Perlman's amusing gruffness, a few humorous scenes (Hellboy and Abe Sapien getting drunk on Tecate whle listening to Barry Manilow) and an ending that's morbidly loopy keep the movie from derailing. "Hellboy's" fans may not mind that del Toro's script feels scattered, but I was slightly disappointed by a movie that -- for all its amazing monsters -- seems to lack the gripping intensity of some of del Toro's previous work.

If you want to know how the "Hellboy" series has grown, take a loot at this article from Variety.. Writer David S. Cohen, who interviewed del Toro, begins by noting that this edition of the "Hellboy" series features 32 monsters as compared to five in the original.

No comments: