The biggest compliment I can pay a sequel is to say, if you liked the first movie, this one does more of the same but better.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Three-Disc Special EditionBuy this DVD
While the first movie was clearly based closely on the work of Mike Mignola, this one is more of a blend of his work and that of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth). The pacing and feel are different, but even more obviously, the type of monsters give it away. They’re body horrors, invading or squishy, or fairy-influenced instead of Mignola’s blocky Nazis and Lovecraftian demons. The Golden Army sections reminded me of a zombie take on Lord of the Rings.
This time, the filmmakers had more money, so they made the movie bigger and more polished, but part of me misses the rougher, more slapdash feel of the first film. The creatures are creepier than before, in what they can do, but I don’t take them as seriously, maybe because of the classic fantasy feel. The visuals are astounding, however, and definitely the reason to watch.
In addition to more special effects, this sequel has more humor and more character interaction. It was nice to see the Professor (John Hurt) again, and the flashback to Hellboy as a child was a clever way to do it, even if the character’s less believable that way. (I think it’s because the hand is so out of scale.) Liz (Selma Blair) looks a lot better with the shorter hair, and I like seeing her have control of her firestarter abilities. Her tough-gal, “I haven’t got time for this” take is better than the mopey depressive she was before.
The banter in amongst the effects seemed a bit sitcom-y to me, but I can’t really put my finger on why. Perhaps it’s because the characters are more broadly stroked in their reactions, with wisecracks and faux separations and dramatic revelations. Sometimes it worked for me — I found the scene in the locker room where Hellboy gets banged by the doors funny — sometimes, as when Liz and Hellboy’s fight over space destroys the headquarters, it didn’t. Then there’s the Barry Manilow karoke scene, simultaneously touching and head-shakingly wrong.
I missed the voice of David Hyde-Pierce for Abe Sapien. Now, he’s voiced by Doug Jones, who has always played him physically. I also missed Agent Myers (Rupert Evans), because I think a human element is a nice balance to all the weirdness. But Johann Krauss, a German bag of gas with plot-saving psychic powers, was a nice addition.
Where the first film was gritty, this is visually lush, but in either case, Ron Perlman as Hellboy is the core. It’s his performance that makes the big red demon believable and pulls the film through.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Also available on Blu-rayBuy this DVD
The three-disc special edition consists of:
Disc One: The film, of course, plus two commentaries — one with director del Toro and another with Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, and Luke Goss (who plays the elvish Prince Nuada). Seven different set visits show the filming of different scenes, plus del Toro provides a tour of the Troll Market set. Six deleted scenes can be played with or without commentary. The Zinco Epilogue “animated comic” (comic with voiceovers, sound effects, and camera movement) shows a group of villains seeking out Kroenen (from the first movie), with art by Francisco Ruiz Velasco.
Disc Two: The bonus material. Over two hours of making-of called “Hellboy: In Service of the Demon”. (It’s a movie about a movie!) Additionally, there’s concept art, director’s sketches and notes, storyboards, an image gallery that includes movie posters, and, if you put it in your computer, a copy of the script. In short, a course on how they made this movie the way they did.
Disc Three: A digital copy of the movie for loading into iTunes or Windows Media Player, plus an activation code to access it. I didn’t follow it through all the way (I prefer to watch movies on TV, not the smaller computer screen), but the process seems a lot easier than the one Warner users.