Hellboy II: The Golden Army Review

The Film

The first Hellboy movie charmed the pants off me. I know people who are fond of the original comic didn't think too much of it, but I did. It was the ideas that worked for me, particularly it's asking "what makes a man, a man?" and the resolution of this question at the film's end. It had a screenplay that was a lot more literate than was strictly necessary, and it used its parenthesis, voiced of course by the mellifluous John Hurt, to show it was a film discussing free will and the concept of nurture versus nature.

The second film begins with a similar voiceover, courtesy of a marvellous animation and the resurrected Hurt, which ruminates once more about man's nature. It tells us that we think ourselves incomplete and try to compensate for this with acquisition and possession whilst our planet suffers because of our materialism. The film then moves on to the efforts that the human heart will go to to save one beloved other above the world itself.
What follows this thought is possibly more successful as a comic book movie than his first effort. Del Toro provides a magnificent spectacle - full of strange creatures, and this time choosing to deepen the characters that we first met in the previous tale. The computer generated sequences are phenonemal, and a lot of the visual ideas which enriched Pan's Labyrinth are extended further here.

This time Hellboy learns more about mankind's rejection of those who are different, and his initial naive need to be admired by everyone is soon replaced by an uneasy knowledge of the hate his looks inspire. This film also gives the wonderful Jeffrey Tambor, who will always be Hank Kingsley to me, more to do in keeping the comedy going, and it also re-unites the director with Bros boy Luke Goss, whose aptitude for the physical is perfect for his role. As a feast for the eyes and a damn fine show, Hellboy 2 is most definitely a blockbuster of real quality.
Still, the philosophy and ideas of the first film seem much more rewarding to me. The big revelation of Hellboy 2 is that man or freak, we all need someone to complete us, and that it is the most human quality to be willing to let the world go to ruin so that we save that one other. We learn this through the assorted freaks who learn how human they are through their own actions, and the film concludes with the notion that perhaps the truest love is that which sacrifices itself for the object of its attentions.

And how does this idea, the same idea that you find in Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers in its hyperbolic conclusion and the notion that you find beautifully articulated in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose as "True love wants only the good of the beloved", find itself expressed here?

With Barry Manilow and the drunken lovesick fools who sing along to that crap, that's how. I'd like to believe that we will eventually see a director's cut which will deepen this expression and validate my impression of the first film's sagacity. Yet it may be just the case that Del Toro has decided that schmaltz is the very stuff that fills that hole in our hearts. I do hope that I am wrong about that.
So the sugar coating may be a little too much, but Hellboy 2 eats Iron Man and the like for breakfast, dinner, and tea. Del Toro shows once again that he knows how to use technology well to tell a story, and he provides another success in the Hollywood side of his two pronged career. Overall, I would say that Hellboy 2 is most definitely successful but perhaps not quite as clever as I'd like.

Transfer and Sound

The film is encoded using the AVC/MPEG 4 codec and takes up a filesize of 25.7 GB. The transfer is very sharp but I have seen transfers with more in the way of shadow detail and more natural looking fleshtones. These comments aside, black levels are very good and this is certainly very pleasing on the eye.
A single DTS HD Master Audio track is offered in 7.1 which downmixed to DTS 5.1 on my set-up and even in this form it was a wonderful three dimensional mix with excellent effects placement, plenty of attack and clarity, and dialogue mixed exactly where it's coming from. French and Spanish DTS tracks are included along with subtitles in all three languages.

Discs and Special Features

This disc is a very daring and advanced release. The picture in picture video effects are not simply tacked on to scenes like in earlier "Bonusview" presentations but actually within the playing of the film. So you can watch the troll market sequences with conceptual drawings popping up here and there and view the various degrees of post production on the visual effects in others. Notes crop up from Del Toro's notebook and onset filming of the final sequence is also cut in to the film. It's an easy function to turn off but very well put together for this release.

Other clever extras come in the shape of a build your own comic feature where you can use stills from the film to create your own cartoon version complete with speech bubbles. This function was rather too clever for me and, not being a comic book geek, I don't quite understand it to be honest.

You can view the deleted scenes with original audio or with the director's commentary and Del Toro laments the loss of the scenes whilst confirming that they did nothing for the tempo. Included here is a much longer version of Nuada's training sequence which reaches onanistic levels of self-indulgence. The bloopers reel is only announced by a red symbol and ends with a cheery montage of the cast goofing it up, Selma Blair does come over as rather scary during this.

Del Toro takes us for a walk through the troll market set, and he explains the ideas and the genesis of the sequence. There are oodles of picture galleries, watchable through slideshow or simply flicking through the images. Mike Mignola offers commentary on his drawings for the film and there are storyboard to film comparisons as well.

The film itself is accompanied by the choice of two commentaries. Del Toro is his usually chatty self constantly finding interesting stories about the film-making process and alluding to what might come if he gets chance to make a third film. The other commentary involves Blair, Goss and Tambor, who it must be said is a bit of a luvvie. Goss is always keen to talk about his physical sequences and all three are often in awe of what the director is capable of achieving. It isn't the most entertaining listen and many are probably wondering where Perlman is.

The Animated Zinco Epilogue picks up where the first film ended with an evil businessman finding the Russian cemetery and up to no good. It's entertaining enough but no more than filler with rank bad dialogue. The BD-Live worked intermittently on my computer and the features there were not too exciting, see Dave's news item for more details of these.

There is so much on this dual layer disc that it does take forever to get through it all which will please obsessives, but I did find the menus rather slow to get around despite their clever design. The final extra to mention is the digital copy.


An extras laden release of a fine blockbuster. The coming UK release has much of the same and a few more special features spread over two discs whilst this release has only one. A very entertaining film given a very good treatment.

8 out of 10
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out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 21:27:53

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