01st Apr2020

Rewind: ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’ Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Alexander, James Dodd, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hurt | Written and Directed by Guillermo del Toro

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In ten years time everyone is going to be saying “The Marvel films were actually quite rubbish, for the most part, weren’t they?”. This is because, they are. I enjoyed the odd one here and there (Guardians of the Galaxy) but for the most part, they are bad films. The Avengers have taken the traditionally accepted plot and story arc conventions of film making and torn them up. Why have Oreos when we can have double stuffed. Why have double stuffed when we can have quadruple stuffed? Those dark biscuit bits are unnecessary, just squirt the white cream into my mouth for over 3 hours while I gurgle with something that might be pleasure but isn’t.

Don’t get me started on the time travel.

I recently splurged on Hellboy: The Board Game (keep an eye out for that review), at which point I naturally sat down and re-watched Hellboy 2: The Golden ArmyHellboy 2 doesn’t have to squirt cream into my mouth, Hellboy 2 follows the established conventions of storytelling and makes an incredibly wholesome and satisfying treat. On the superficial level, there is fun, snappy dialog here and a series of suitably bombastic fight scenes in epic locations for Hellboy to smash his way through. “Red”, “Blue” and Jeffrey Tambor’s character offer fun and zippy interactions, but below that there is an interesting and deeply sad plot filled with profound loss and, decisions that Hellboy is making that can never be unmade.

The story arc of Hellboy is simple, yet intelligent and mirrors that of our baddie, both of which are wronged outsiders of immense power that find themselves feeling helpless with events that seem bigger than they are. The bad guy is an Elf, a race who were screwed over and marginalized by the humans and are now just hanging on to existence on the edge of reality waiting to fade away. Our baddie, elven prince wants to unlock an ancient and terrible weapon to turn the tables on the humans and put the elves back on top. His father, the king and his sister believe the elves should just accept their fate with good cheer and yet our prince rages against the dying of the light.

Hellboy naturally works to thwart the baddies plan and, despite his rough personality shines the brightest when the night is the darkest. Throughout there is the nagging feeling that we, humans are the real monsters, there is a profound sense of sadness when the baddies are defeated as they tend to represent the loss of something that will never come back. There is also the strong suspicion that Hellboy may well be fighting on the wrong side, no matter what he does, no matter that he saves babies, we humans are always going to hate him and with every step he takes in Hellboy 2 he is tipping the balance further and further from the supernatural to the natural and destroying something literally magical. The scene where the baddie unleashes a forest god into New York City is particularly expressive of this.

The level of thought and craft that has gone into this film is quite impressive. This was a new story, created just for the film and as such it works brilliantly on the big screen without having to make weird compromises (a la Watchmen). The cast is excellent, Guillermo del Toro again works his magic. The film is filled with interesting takes on old troupes (“Tooth faeries”) and weird and wonderful steam punk gizmos.

There is no time travelling take backs in Hellboy 2. If you kill the last forest God it is gone, and we all need to learn to own our choices and decision, there are no take backs in real life and nor should there be in smart entertainment.

2 Responses to “Rewind: ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’ Review”

  • David Calwell

    You lost me at “The Marvel films were actually quite rubbish, for the most part, weren’t they?”. This is because, they are”. Many would disagree. An opinion shouldn’t be presented as a fact.

    • Hi David! Many thanks for taking the time to leave constructive feedback. Perhaps I left that a bit too controversial! Did you see Hellboy 2? How did you like it?