| The Red Right Hand
Guillermo Del Toro
I love Hellboy. If you are a regular reader or tune into the podcast, you'll know that it's one of my favourite comic series. I know it's not to everyone's liking but the characters are well-written, the visual style is interesting and the stories entertaining. What more do you want?
After the mediocre release of Hellboy Sony and Revolution Studios had a bit of a spat and sold off the rights, deeming them to be non-profitable. With director Guillermo Del Toro's astonishing Pan's Labyrinth winning multiple awards and increasing Hellboy DVD sales, Universal instantly opted for the product. Taking a back seat, Universal slid a money-stuffed briefcase across a long table and told Del Toro to do whatever he felt best - an incredible act, in of itself. Del Toro, being the big Mignola/Hellboy fan, contacted the original team and readied the script for Hellboy II, turning down projects such as I Am Legend, Halo, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince and Dragonball. Alright, that's enough background detail out of the way.
The plot is a little typical for a superhero sequel - BPRD (The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) goes public, people turn on them, then they go back to who they were - but it's executed so well and in such an entertaining manner that it doesn't seem at all tired. Running parallel to this is the sinister story of mankind's alliance with the mystical creatures of this world. The one-armed elfin king, Balor, struck a truce with humanity after crushing the majority of their forces with the help of the indestructible Golden Army. As an act of defiance, Prince Nuada [Goss] exiled himself, vowing to return when he was needed. The plot perfectly mirrors the visual style, with so many intricacies and so much going on that to describe the various threads and layers would take quite some time. The easiest way to describe it would be by comparing it to The Dark Knight. Both highly successful, artistic visions of comic book source material but where one goes down a very serious and realistic avenue, the other follows the more fun aspect of comics (similar to Iron Man). The jokes are corny, the action over-the-top but it still retains that vital entertaining element at its core.
Just a quick note about the characters. A lot of people walked out of the screening asking why Abe Sapien's voice was different. To clarify, the studios meddled with the first film, over-dubbing Doug Jones' vocal performance with David Hyde Pierce, hoping that his name would bring in more punters. Hyde Pierce mimicked Jones' original voice work and later refused to publicise the film, insisting that his name be taken out of the credits, claiming that Doug's voice was no different and he needn't have been called in. A point on which I agree and praise Mr. Hyde Pierce for. Secondly, Liz Sherman [Blair]. I'm not an especially big fan of Selma Blair but she works surprisingly well as Liz. The greatest problem I had with the first Hellboy (other than bloody Meyers!) was the blue flames emanating from young Ms. Sherman. I know, it looked cool but lacked the feeling of fire - probably something to do with fire, smoke and water being the most difficult items to paint/CG. So seeing Liz wreathed in yellow flames, the heat rising and distorting the air around it was greatly pleasing. And finally, Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), the only new character from the original comics. Having seen early production photos, I was a little sceptical about Krauss' suit (yep, I'm a petty fanboy like that) but it worked very well and I was relatively impressed with MacFarlane's voiceover work - the character needed a stuffy, faux German accent to set the tone.
More and more I'm feeling a slight departure from the original graphic novels but thankfully Mike Mignola is still working hand-in-hand with Guillermo Del Toro to create something new; a hybrid Hellboy universe combining elements of the original characters, while branching out to new territory. This film, as a collaborative piece, is thoroughly beautiful, captivating and visually expressive in a way cinema has not been permitted to be for quite some time. In a sense, this film expands movies as not only surreal stories of wonder and excitement but - at times - art.
22nd August 2008
The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes today. The first is the unique intro sequence. A young Hellboy asks his father for a story and is rewarded with the take of the origins of The Golden Army. The story plays out using CGI jointed, wooden drawing mannequins to demonstrate the battles and choices made. It's original, entertaining and rather unique. The second is just before entering the Troll Market. Disobeying orders, Hellboy intercepts a cat-eating demon. I like that Hellboy likes cats, it's funny. So hearing him frustratingly complain, "It's going to eat the cat!" was amusing.
Again, two characters. The first is Luke Goss, of Bros fame, playing Prince Nuada. I don't like Mr. Goss, I find him annoying and yet, for some reason, I think he's really talented when directed by Del Toro. He was great in Blade II and he's great in this. It makes so little sense. Oh, there was also a little baby attached to this creepy creature in the Troll Market (the Troll Market was great, it was like seeing the Star Wars cantina scene for the first time) and as Krauss pets the infant commenting, "What a lovely baby" it cockily replies "I'm not a baby, I'm a tumour." I'm highlighting it because it was funny. I'm also highlighting it because I was thinking "Quaid! Quaid! Start the reactor! Free Mars!" hehehe.
"It's all the same to me, my heart is filled with dust and sand. But you should know, it is his destiny to bring about the destruction of the Earth... not now, not tomorrow but soon enough. Knowing that, you still want him to live?"
In A Few Words:
"Exquisite visual storytelling"