Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
By: J.R. McNamara on January 19, 2009  | 
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Romanian Subtitles. 115 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Seth MacFarlane, Luke Goss
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
The cornerstone of a good monster movie lies solely in the design of the monsters, and if that is the case, then Hellboy II: The Golden Army is built on rock solid foundations! This is something I discovered that director Guillermo Del Toro understands almost instinctively when I watched the extras on the first Hellboy movie DVD extras disc. He claims that the key to a good monster is symmetry: you have to make sure there isn't any!!! Hellboy creator Mike Mignola obviously understands this as well, judging by his awesomely uneven Hellboy design, with gigantic stone fist on one arm, and not on the other. Combine the talents of Mignola's monsters, which can be seen in many many comic collections from Dark Horse Comics, and combine that with Del Toro's ability to 'imagineer' characters, which he excels at judging by the vampires from Blade 2, and the awe inspiring designs from Pan's Labyrinth.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army has wandered down a completely different trail than the first film. Hellboy was predominantly a monster/hero film, with Hellboy facing the hordes of the hidden unseen creatures that dwell in the darkness, all of which had either a historical basis, or were steeped in Lovecraftian origins. Hellboy II should appeal to the fans of the fantasy genre, as it is steeped more in the traditional fantasy realms of literature, such as Lord Dunsany, which Del Toro also paid homage to in Pan's Labyrinth.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army starts in 1955, where a young Hellboy, rascal that he may be, is being told by his 'Dad', Professor Broom (John Hurt, riffing his Storyteller character from the 80s TV show Jim Henson's The Storyteller) a tale of the Golden Army. The Golden Army were a force of clockwork soldiers, created by goblins to rid the earth of the scourge of man, but the king of the elves, who had control of this army through a golden crown, decided that genocide was not an option. His son, the Elfen Prince Nuada, chose exile over subjugation and concealment, and disappeared to plot for another day. The Golden Crown was split into three pieces, with one of the pieces given to mankind so that the elves would never feel the temptation to command the army once more. This tale is imagined by Hellboy as a gigantic puppet show, given that his favourite TV show is that of Howdy Doody, the puppet cowboy.

Flash forward to today, and a portion of the crown is being sold at auction. Or it would have been, had not Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) and his ominous sidekick Mr Wink (Brian Steele) crashed it. They steal the piece once belonging to man, and release a plague of Tooth Fairies on the auction goers. The Tooth Fairies devour the auction-goers as they get away, and who is sent in to investigate?

Well, none other than Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and the other members of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence: Hellboy's gal, fiery tempered Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), underwater dweller Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), governmental liaison Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) and newcomer, paranormal expert Johann Krauss (James Dodd, John Alexander and voiced by Seth McFarlane). They find that the Prince has sworn the destruction of mankind, and intends on using the Golden Army to succeed in his mission. The members of the B.P.R.D. are now on a mission that sees them meet elves, fight giants and meet the Angel of Death himself, all in the effort to stop the destruction of a world that fears and is repulsed by them.

This is such a 'monster jam' that the main characters other than Hellboy are almost paid a disservice with its title. Really this is much more a B.P.R.D. film rather than a solo Hellboy film, and the characters of Liz and Abe, actually especially Abe, and newcomer Johan Krauss, are given a lot of screen time. I understand that selling this as a sequel is a much better idea; especially considering how much Hollywood Marketing Departments know how stupid we the cinema-goers are and that we wouldn't understand a movie called B.P.R.D. was actually a sequel to Hellboy.

Beautifully shot by Del Toro's wonderful eye, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is a delight to look at, and I am sure you will find your mouth agape once or twice at the beasts that appear on screen. The elves are as beautiful as one would expect them to be, and far removed from the ones Peter Jackson delivered us in his Lord of the Rings adaptation, and the rest of the creatures all stand out as wonders of either traditional make up and SPFX, or CGI.

A special mention must go to Doug Jones who plays multiple roles here as he did in Pan's Labyrinth. His portrayal of Abe Sapien is honest and very real, and his appearances as both The Chamberlain and The Angel of Death are impressive as well.
Video
It seems superfluous to describe something that looks this good as 'picture perfect', but that's what it is. The film is an infallible image presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, that is so rich and vibrant that it is almost beyond belief.
Audio
The audio on this is fabulous!! The feature is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and, like the picture, is perfect.
Extra Features
As usual, Del Toro likes to coat his films with a thick coating of delicious DVD extras.

Disc 1

The feature presentation disc starts with a trailer for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, before taking us to the main menu. Is that an extra? Well I didn't ask for it so I guess it is!

Guillermo Del Toro does a wonderful commentary on this disc. Del Toro is a man, who clearly loves his craft, and his commentary for this film is filled with so many anecdotes and so much information, I was surprised his brain was big enough to contain it all! Excellent commentary, this one! This commentary also begins with a 'live' introduction by Del Toro, where he tells of how he likes to explain how 'his toys' work.

Set Visit contains 7 small behind the scenes vignettes that show what went on during the filming. They are titled The Chamberlain, Wink Vs Abe, Hellboy Vs Wink, Elemental Egg, Big Baby, H is for Hotel and Disintegrating Royalty. Fans of how a film was made will find all these quite interesting.

Director's Notes,  had to admit, didn't get me very excited at first as I imagined it to be little more than either text, or fuzzy pics of Del Toro's notebook, but this is Del Toror we are talking about, so I should have known better. This is crisp and clear pictures taken from Del Toro's notebook showing his initial designs for various characters from the film, but most of the pages have 'Easter eggs' which show more about the design of the character, and interviews with Del Toro as he explains his reasoning behind the look of the film, and his initial concepts.

Disc 2 is where the fun REALLY begins.

First, a small prologue where Del Toro introduces the second disc, which is probably not necessary, but has a personal feeling to it.

Now the meat!!

Hellboy: In Service of the Demon is a thorough look at the making of the film, similar to the one seen on the first Hellboy DVD release (well, the multi disc release ones anyway). This making of features interviews with cast and crew and really, I doubt if they could tell you much more about how the film was made!

Product Workshop shows a 'Professor's Broom's Puppet Theatre' from the initial drawn breakdowns right up to the finished product.

Preproduction Vault is a gallery of pre-production drawings and paintings presented in four parts: Creature Design, Mike Mignola Creator Gallery (with commentary and slideshow), Production Design and Production Stills. I usually find galleries fairly useless on DVDs, but again, these are fascinating… especially Mignola's slideshow!

Marketing Campaign shows a series of utilized and not used posters for the selling of the film.

Troll Market Tour has Del Toro take us on a tour trough the quite elaborate set for the Troll Market. The most interesting thing about this is how much thought went into every single aspect of the set.

Zinco Epilogue is an animatic of an unused epilogue for the film which featured the resurrection of a character from the first film (whose mask can be seen in the background of some of the B.P.R.D. Sets.

Lastly, disc 2 features a series of deleted scenes that can be watched with or without a commentary by Del Toro. All the scenes are an interesting watch, at first, but when watched with the commentary, you can see why Del Toro removed them.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Truly my only criticism of this film is that as a 'comic' character, this film seems to be less like Mignola's vision, and more like something from Del Toro's psyche. Not that that is a bad thing, of course, but the first film was mostly true to its source, whereas this seems to drift ever so slightly. I will admit to that being a tough criticism from a guy who is a comic fan, and that a non-comic fan reviewer may not have made such a comment. One think for sure though, fans of fantasy films, Lord Dunsany or 'steampunk' will get hard for this film! Make sure you get the 2 discer!!

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