Saturday, 13 September 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Del Toro and Loving it!

Hello again dear readers. With all the new Japanese event-related stuff moved to Otaku Lens, there is finally room here to write about OTHER media consumption and what better way to start the new season, than the new Hellboy movie?

The story of how I got to see it on the 22th of August (journalists' premiere) is rather long and colorful, so I will stick to the main points: I do PR for the publishing house that publishes the Hellboy and BPRD comics in Greek (Jemma Press), so it fell to me to arrange some joint publicity projects with United International Pictures (UIP), among which, producing the leaflet to be distributed at movie theaters in Greece. I will not go into detail about this but suffice to say, if you thought red tape was labyrinthine in Greece, you should check out the USA. However, the end result looks cool and I am proud of it (mind you, the comic book related text is mine and I have just- ahem - suggested some touches here and there; the rest is the graphic artist's work).

Well, the movie opened just the day before yesterday to the public, so I will not be saying much about the story proper, for spoiler-prevention. Though I also enjoyed the first movie, it seems very likely that the purpose of the first was to fund the second, which was left completely into del Toro's hands, allowing for the creative freedom to deliver his trademark stunning visuals and very "Toro-esque" special effects and make-up.

Angel of Death.

The story begins with a scene from Hellboy's past, around 1947 (with young Hellboy created by Montse Ribe, del Toro's Special Effects Make-Up Artist and voiced by Colin Ford), on Christmas Night, when Trevor Bruttenholm (pronounced "Broom") reluctantly agrees to tell the young demon boy a bedtime story. The bedtime story comes from a book apparently relating the tales of an amalgam of ancient Lemuria, the Celtic Elfland and a spot of Norwegian mythology . The story goes that at the Dawn of Man, who had been created with a hole in his heart, mortals and the magical races found themselves at odds and humans started expanding by way of bloody war (the reason why the humans had so much success in their warfare, though left unspoken in the movie, is the fact that they bred faster than the ancient races and wielded cold iron weapons, the absolute anathema to magical beings, as related in many mythologies).The story continues with the Goblin Mastersmith offering the Elf King Balor to build an indestructible army, 4900 (70 times 70 soldiers) strong, in order to defeat the humans (this is decisively Norwegian in origin, seeing as Goblins, Dwarves and Trolls are related to metallurgy in those mythological circles). Prince Nuada implored his father to accept and hence the Golden Army was made: powerful, ruthless, unstoppable, controled by those of royal blood, if unchallenged. The Magical Races won the war and all but eradicated the humans. However, seeing as the Elf King was benign at heart and hated the loss of any life, he made a pact with the humans and split the Crown of Power into three pieces, that it may not be used again, thus ending the war and making way for the Age of Man.

This is the background of the movie and I will restrict myself from saying who, of these characters mentioned, play any role in the events unfolding therein. However, it might be interesting to know that these are not you proverbial father's (or Professor Tolkien's) Elves. They are a mix of the Tuatha de Danaan, the godlike race to rule Ireland after the Fir Bolg and the Daoine Sidhe, "The People Under the Hill". Prince Nuada was one of the Tuatha de Danaan, also called Nuada Argatlam, "Nuada of the Silver Hand" (a theme found also in the Norwegian sagas with Tyr), whose legendary sword was certain death to anyone and a Danaan treasure. Interestingly enough, in del Toro's version, Balor is the one-handed King, whereas in Celtic legends, Nuada was the one to step down from the throne, when he lost his hand, since a king could not be lacking in any way.

Prince Nuada.

This whole sequence about the war of Men and the Mythic Races is done in 3D-modeled wooden marionettes (on second thought, they could be actual marionettes and if that is the case, the value of this movie has just soared to the next level), with John Hurt's voice narrating in its most singular fashion. The rest of the movie is a visual and acting roller-coaster, with, if you ask me, merely one low point and that's at the very beginning: Hellboy's and Liz Sherman's relationship problems. Nobody cares, it's not really that funny and Director Manning whining doesn't actually add anything to the funny element. Other than that, from the Goblin Market to Manning being replaced by Johann Kraus (more steampunked than in the comic books and freaking AMAZINGLY voiced by Seth "Family Guy" McFarlane), the movie is one cool surprise after another. Seriously, I may not like "Family Guy" but McFarlane is the whole essence of Johann in the movie ("Herr Manning, you can suck my ectoplasmic Schwannstucker!").

The BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and
Defense). Left to right: Johann Kraus, Abe Sapien
Hellboy, Liz Sherman and Prince Nuada with Princess
Nuala in the background.

The general outline of the story, as you may have read elsewhere, is Prince Nuada wanting to awaken the Golden Army and wage war on Humanity, for their many crimes against the planet and the Old Races and the BPRD's effort (here's hoping we see Roger the Hommonculus in the next movie) to thwart him. Other than all the major coolness so far, as well as del Toro's personal brand of monsters (the Angel of death simply ROCKS!), there are a number of issues addressed, like the characters' feeling of belonging (note: they are all supernatural creatures), the whole "protecting those who may hate you" seen in everything from X-Men to Spider-Man to the Dark Knight but with the whole new perspective of: the Mythic World is in fact dying and Hellboy is one of Humanity's primordial fears, a Demon incarnate, so there will be quite a bit of soul searching, very moving moments for those who have a soft spot for the Fey and some well-placed heartache for the characters.

All in all, it is a movie I would readily rate with an 8 out of 10, always from the perspective that it is addressed to a fantasy-loving audience. The news that del Toro is taking on "The Hobbit", as well as a movie concerning the 60 years between "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings Trilogy", are rapidly making him my favorite director. If the animatronics of "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Hellboy" are any indication, we are in for a treat!

Signing off,



Anonymous said...

Well I am not overly enthusiastic about Hellboy 2. The first Hellboy was a generic fantasy movie and so is Hellboy 2 with a big exception, the visual effects and Art Direction. Like "Pan's Labyrinth", has some excellent monster and scenic designs. But that isn't enough in my opinion to save a poorly written and badly executed scenario. Del Toro apart from an excellent creature designer, falls behind from other really great directors (Like Nolan of Batman fame) and the visuals alone cannot save an average movie.
All in all I don't think that Hellboy 2 is not enjoyable. I just say don't raise your hopes for something really extraordinary like the "THE DARK KNIGHT" movie.

Speedgrapher said...

Me? No I have seen it already. I disagree about the scenario. From a mythological standpoint, the idea is brilliant and the visuals more than do it justice. It may not be a masterpiece like The Dark Knight, granted, but I certainly rate it among the good comic book adaptations.

Anonymous said...

Well I do agree that the idea was briliant. But a good idea needs good support and in our case good character developement. In Hellboy 2 (ΚολασμενοΑγορι στα Ελληνικα)there were neither!!!

Speedgrapher said...

Well, you get back to the ever-discussed issue of the length of a movie, its budget, etc. etc. I believe for what they had to work with, they did well.