Hellboy II: The Golden Army
directed by Guillermo del Toro
(Universal, 2008)

When watching a film, no matter how grandiose or minute, there are certain distinctions that must be consciously made in one's mind. In the case of films that are based on outside pieces of literature, one must remember that you are watching a movie. The concern must not lie with what source the film stemmed from but with the finished product. I made this distinction while discussing Hellboy II: The Golden Army with a friend who had accompanied me to see it, and he was annoyed, downright taken aback, to hear it. However, allow me to make my case; I am, after all, writing a film review and not a comic-book review. If I dared to blur that distinction I would be instigating a turf war between comic-book critics and movie critics, and haven't we learned that lesson from West Side Story? It is best I stick with focusing solely on the film itself.

So, let me say that as a movie Hellboy II: The Golden Army isn't anything to brag about. There was once a time when mythical creatures and humans fought great wars against one another. Each side was determined to be victorious in their genocidal endeavors. In response, King Balor of the mythical world created a Golden Army that was undefeatable but, realizing its devastating consequences, he made a truce with the humans and locked the army away forever. Now, in present day New York, the king's son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is determined to raise the army once more and wipe out the humans once and for all. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is the only one who can stop him.

Unfortunately, the solid story line could not make up for the rest of the film's shortcomings. The dialogue was so unbearably hokey and forced that in some scenes I could actually visualize writer/director Guillermo del Toro sitting in a room sweating over each line during the writing process. However, I will acknowledge that in some cases it is the virtue of teamwork between bad writing and an actor's failure to deliver a line successfully that leads to these consequences. In any case, it is undeniable that Hellboy II is the poster child of what can happen when the myriad of elements that result in a film fail to mesh.

You see, del Toro is known for his impressively creative mind and distinct, almost trite, style (a characteristic that results in his frequent comparison to Tim Burton). However, unlike Burton, del Toro is still a young director and writer and has not yet earned the right to recycle his material. Simply from watching his previous works such as Pan's Labyrinth, one can automatically recognize his familiar color pallet in Hellboy II of gold, crimson red and amber. Not to mention his spectacular and gruesome monsters, fleshy and speckled with eyeballs. His attempt to be resourceful did not take away from the film like the dialogue, but it could not overcompensate for its flaws either. Thus two of the larger elements (screenplay and visual style) did not mesh. It became a disappointment every time my eyes were graced with the beauty of a scene and then my ears were boxed with its dialogue.

In all honesty, there isn't much more to say about this film. It is a movie that simply gives us a reason to lament the waste of talent that Guillermo del Toro has allowed to occur. Ingenuity has been thrown against a wall of flimsy writing and not only does it not stick, but the whole structure has come crashing down. Even though I have established that I will not judge this film based on its comic-book roots, let me end by saying that I sincerely hope that, for the sake of its loyal fans, the comic book outshines the film.

review by
Molly Ebert

13 June 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new