In the first Hellboy (and in Blade II before it), Guillermo del Toro, the visionary Mexican filmmaker behind such masterpieces as “The Devil’s Backbone” and Pan’s Labyrinth, took the backseat in the loud, fuel-burning Hummers that are big blockbuster action movies. While “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is still full of the over the top noisy mayhem you expect from a big budget Hollywood flick, at least this time it feels like del Toro is in the driver’s seat, making this sequel fully his own, firmly planting it in his unbridled imagination and even allowing himself a few poetic bursts.

Coming off more like a fantasy tale than a conventional super-hero movie (a distinction one can also make about the original Mike Mignola comic books), “The Golden Army” establishes a mythology according to which, eons ago, mankind and the elvish kingdom reached a truce which allowed to former to thrive in the cities while the latter would have dominion over the forests. But after centuries of watching men and cities spread out more and more, to the detriment of nature and the fantastical creatures that inhabit it, the elvish Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) has concluded that the truce had been broken and now intends to wipe out humanity, by unleashing a long dormant army of indestructible machines…

As you might guess, mankind’s only hope rests once again with Hellboy (Ron Perlman), the demon with the sawed-off horns at the employ of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense… Even though he’s been prophesized to bring about the world’s end, not save it. Impressive when he kicks monster ass, the character is also very funny and sympathetic, particularly in this second film. Cynical, grumpy and generally more inclined to smoke a cigar and have a beer or twelve then to go around being a hero, Hellboy is, despite his appearance, profoundly human.


Equally amusing and endearing is the aquatic empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), who shares one of the movie’s most delicious scenes with Hellboy (two words: Barry Manilow!). Also a lot of fun is the new addition to the team, Johann Kraus, the prickly German ectoplasm confined to what looks like an old diving suit, who’s voiced by Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane. Like in the first flick, alas, the sentimental storyline involving Hellboy’s firestarter girlfriend Liz brings things down a bit, in great part because, ironically, Selma Blair lacks warmth.

And then there are all the other weird and fascinating creatures del Toro has populated his film with, which I could have spent hours admiring, so graceful and lyrical they can be… Which makes it almost disappointing when they inevitably start beating other up, which breaks the delicate magic woven by del Toro. All the same, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” remains considerably superior to most Hollywood blockbusters.