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Hellboy 2 Review

December 21, 2008

I know it seems pretty late to review this movie, considering its already out on DVD. But I’m a poor college student, and I’m trying to do it the poor college student way–and without getting arrested for using BitTorrent. I also really wanted to write up my opinions on the film–the good, the bad, and the Krauss.

Because we can all use a little more of Johann Krauss.

I want to say upfront that I have never read the Hellboy comic and don’t intend to. I don’t know why, but I don’t like comic books all that much.  I hardly even read manga. Blasphemy, I know, but I don’t have time, nor the physical space, to read comic books. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I follow a few manga series online.)

Hellboy II is, as you’ve probably guessed, a sequel, and like some sequels falls prey to a common problem: trying too hard to be a sequel. It tries too hard with special effects, with plots, with characterization, and for some reason decides to use continuity as a roll of toilet paper. Now, you’re probably thinking “What about the continuity?” Well, follow along with my quite disputable logic for a minute:

The original Hellboy movie (remember, we’re ignoring the comics for this review) was a pretty Lovecraftian film. It was about Nazis using occult powers to summon cosmic beings from beyond space and time to blow up the Earth. Perfectly okay. Hellboy II is about elves. Yes, that’s right: elves, trolls, and the occasional goblin. Oh, and a guy whose head is Notre Dame. I found the different tack to be jarring, as we’ve come from Lovecraft to D20 Modern. Some will undoubtably complain, “But Face, elves are more than just Tolkien and stupid fantasy roleplayers!” but that sense didn’t come here. In fact, Prince Nuada just seemed like a light-skinned drow.

And for a movie like this, that’s pathetic.

The good news about Prince Nuada is that he isn’t the typical Hollywood bad guy who wants to just blow up the planet, like Rasputin in the first movie: he wants to avenge his people and bring about the resurgence of elves and magical beings. He’s kinda like Hitler, actually, and its disturbing to say that when I notice some semblance of nobility in him. But during his first appearance, he had a mini-rant about the “emptiness” of humanity. No offense, but we’ve heard it all before, and the whole “we’re arrogant, soulless slobs” bit gets really old. Can’t they figure out some new critique of humanity already? Like we elected George W. Bush twice? (Oh, wait, that might fall under the “arrogant, soulless slobs” bit.)

Some other critics have described Nuada as a “weak villain.” Well, not really, if you think about the rest of the cast. Just about everyone was weak. The only exceptions were Abe Sapien and Johann Krauss. I really can’t get enough of the Austrian ectoplasma dude; not only does he have a cool voice (then again, what character voiced by Seth MacFarlane doesn’t have a cool voice?) but he’s the right dose of professionalism and by-the-bookness: enough to act as a good foil against Hellboy, but not enough that I’m obligated to wonder what might be shoved up his ectoplasmic butt. Abe is about half as decent as Krauss, and is almost the protagonist of this film, considering that the major love interest is for him, not Hellboy. He does seem a bit more natural and in tune than the rest. I mean, come on, what was even the point of the love problems with Hellboy and Liz? Their love troubles seemed to be concoted for the sole purpose of giving them (the producers) an excuse to have Ron Perlman and Selma Blair be mean to each other and make up at the end. And Manning–BPRD director–just felt like a cardboard cutout. “Hellboy hates me. I’m going to suck up to Agent Krauss.” Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd…not much more than that.

There were also some foolish gaps in logic and asininely ridiculous cinematographic choices. In the logic category, I refer the viewer to when BPRD first investigates Nuada and they get attacked by tooth fairies. Okay, so the tooth fairies are swarming one BPRD redshirt like scarabs fresh out of The Mummy, eating him alive, yet look at everyone else: yeah, they’re pretty okay. I understand the concept of a Plot Armor, but c’mon, this is ridiculous. They were not on top of them for largely no reason, unless you could argue that the rapidly disintegrating corpse of the recently dead redshirt was attracting them, to which I strenously disagree. (The others were in another room.) Another absence of logic is when people are suddenly surprised and freaked out to learn that Hellboy exists. Gimme a break–the guy was posing for photos everywhere, a large chunk of people were surely aware of him as a real person (well, as real as a fictional person can get), it would have been more “I told you so” than the “ZOMG HELLBOY OMGWTFBBQSOAP!” Ridiculous.

As for cinematography, Del Toro must’ve gotten a hard on for fading transitions, because he uses them in several scenes (okay, maybe just two.) And I know, they’re love scenes, but still, you don’t need to fade when the camera is just changing from looking at one face to another face six inches away and pointed in another direction. And then there’s the addition of syrupy sweet pop music with idiotic lyrics added in order to make a point. The problem is, when they’re used for only six seconds, they don’t make a point, they make a “Huh?” and after seeing them used countless times, their addition only cheapens the moment. Like when Hellboy falls out of a building and onto a cop car ten minutes into the film. Everything slows down, some pop music starts, and we’re supposed to be getting the feeling that Hellboy is about to die. Except we all know damn well he isn’t, and the music was out of place. Rubbish.

Now if they did kill Hellboy right there, I would have said, “Whoa, put the cup down, sit up, watch this film!” It would have been so surprising as to be epic, throwing out tropes and being, I dunno, so adventurous as to be good. Epically stupid, maybe, considering without Hellboy there really wouldn’t have been a movie (at least a movie titled Hellboy; it could easily have been Abe & Krauss Kick Butt) but it would be epic, and perhaps make me consider giving this movie an A.

Unfortunately, I can’t. Most of the characters are lame, the logic is faulty, the cinematography makes me want to claw my eyes out at several distinct points in the movie, and the public’s reaction to Hellboy is stale and uninspiring. The fight scenes may be good, and I like the whimsical appearance of the Trollmarket (although at times it was too whimsical), but overall this movie was a poor successor to the original Hellboy, which itself wasn’t all that awesome to begin with.



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