Since being unimpressed with the first Hellboy, I’ve read just about all the comics and spin-offs, so am probably in a better position to enjoy this film. That being said, del Toro’s Hellboy flicks are deliberately different from the comics, eschewing the neo noir look for something a little more Hollywood, and the wonderful backstories for much simpler tales.
Nevertheless, this is a better film than the original. First of all, it looks stunning. Incredibly stunning. Since the critical and box office success of Pan’s Labyrinth, the powers that be must have thrown buckets of money in del Toro’s direction, cos this is a truly lavish film. And the best thing about del Toro? He knows how to spend money. After witnessing Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, and bemoaning the lack of physical effects in Hollywood, I now see someone who has made a movie within the studio system and it’s filled with puppets. The creatures look fantastic, and there are none of the awful frogmen that very nearly ruined the first film. Trolls, faeries and ogre-like things inhabit this world, and it’s wonderful to see.
The story is fine, however it’s nothing to get excited about. After the exhaustingly plotted The Dark Knight, it’s a little strange to see a comic book film that’s a little more… comic booky. There’s certainly nothing to complain about, but it does seem a little thin on the ground. It has to be one of del Toro’s funniest films, however, which is a welcome improvement. Strangely enough, the laughs come a long way into the flick, something that is rare in a blockbuster film. They usually get them over and done with early on, like the recent Hancock.
The funniest moments would be provided by Johann Krauss. His introduction seems to set off the film’s more comedic moments, but not at the sacrifice of his character. Liz (Selma Blair) and Hellboy’s (Ron Perlman) romance continues, though it’s never really that convincing. At least they’re smart enough to never show them actually pashing. The performances are all great, Bros’ Luke Goss showing us once again how good a performer he actually is as the evil faery Prince Nuada. A couple of del Toro’s favourite performers, Brian Steele and Doug Jones play multiple roles, usually encased in a tonne of makeup. Neither disappoints, and this hopefully proves that the dying art of bringing monster suits to life isn’t quite over.
Despite the glorious world on show, it all comes a bit too easily, so the film doesn’t feel as epic as it should. It deals with the nature of the greater good in its own simple way, and is quite effective in doing so, even if it pales in comparison to the complexity of other comic book movies. It’s a great popcorn flick, however, and if you ever get bored you only need turn your attention to the fantastic sets and art design to keep you going.Rating: