Film review: Hellboy’s back

2008-09-21 00:00

Hellboy (2004), a comic book adaptation featuring a wisecracking, cigar-smoking, kitty-loving demon anti-hero, earned a small cult following for director Guillermo del Toro. Then, two years later, he made the stunning Pan’s Labyrinth, and, perhaps having proved himself with all those Oscars, has been allowed to give free rein to his imagination in the second in the Hellboy franchise. Hellboy II is funny and action-packed, and it is also beautifully conceived.

“HB” is still working for the FBI’s paranormal branch with his flame-throwing girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and best friend, the amphibious Abe (voice of David Hyde Pierce). There’s also a new addition to their team, Johan, a Teutonic, formless cloud of ectoplasm in a diving suit (hilariously voiced by Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane). This time, the enemy is a sword-toting elven prince who has sworn revenge on the human race for spreading their pollution all over the globe. And as if this guy isn’t enough to deal with, Hellboy’s also having domestic problems.

The weak point of this movie is the plot, which is loose and derivative and seems sometimes to be just an excuse to introduce us to a parade of grim and gorgeous characters, from trolls to tooth fairies, which is the real joy of this film. The aesthetic of Hellboy II is reminiscent of so much great fantasy, from Celtic legend to Tolkien to Star Wars, but it has an originality of vision and a large dose of humour that gives it its own charm.

The other pleasure is the characters, who are real and endearing; they have relationship issues and get drunk and do stupid things. Even the bad guy is sympathetically drawn; he has a point, you feel. A rare example of a sequel being better than the original.

****

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