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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Hellboy II: The Golden Army opened this week at the Essex Cinemas and fanboys around the country went mishuggah with happiness to see their favorite demon from Hades make it to the big screen once again. Me? Not so much. No offense to Hellboy himself, but my favorite demon from Hell has always been Dick Cheney but I think he would enjoy playing one of the Nazis who released Hellboy from “the other dimension” in the original self-titled Hellboy film, and I doubt he would settle for less than second billing in any new venture. That would seem to be a potential deal-breaker considering his last eight years of employment.

Actually, whenever I think of Hellboy, I think of my cousin Dumbass Tony. You probably think that is a rude thing to call a member of your own family, but I’m not the one who started it. His own father did. Dumbass Tony got his nickname the honest way. He earned it. He spent most of his teenage years in and out of youth detention facilities, or, as his mother soft-pedaled it, “naughty boys’ homes.” Tony did everything from dealing crack to robbing the local bank, setting fire to his elementary school (he started his crime spree young) to burgling the neighbor’s home and selling their poodle to a local Korean restaurant. He truly was a hellion if ever there was one. He had an attorney once who even tried to argue that poor little Tony’s impressionable mind had been warped by reading 'Hellboy' comic books and it was their fault he was so out of control as a teenager. That got about as far as Ralph Nader’s last campaign for President. But it was true that Tony was a HUGE fan of 'Hellboy'. He even had a “Hellboy” tattoo put on his back when he was in the Crossbar Hotel, but, like most prison tattoos, it wasn’t very good. To me, it looked more like Dr. Phil with antlers than it did Hellboy.

It wasn’t until he finally turned over a new leaf (after a few years in “Big Boy” prison where he earned a whole other nickname I can’t repeat here) when Tony decided he was going straight and then he turned from “Hellboy Tony” to “Dumbass Tony.”

It happened when he fell in love with some skank that worked the graveyard shift at the local
Cumby’s. She was already seven months pregnant with some one-night stand’s baby, which Tony figured saved him the trouble of buying condoms (Dumbass), so they spent most of their time bumping uglies, chugging bottles of Rolling Rock and chain smoking (Double Dumbasses). Yeah, I know she was preggers. I didn’t say she was a Rhodes Scholar, now did I? So Tony decided to marry this GED-less gem and wanted to surprise her by planning a stunt to impress her when he proposed. He got a friend of his who worked on construction to bring a huge crane and park it next door to the downtown bank. He got Trish, his “Sweetcheeks” to agree to meet up with him at 2:00 pm the next afternoon in front of the bank so they could go out for a late lunch since she usually went to sleep around 4:00 in order to get to the store by her starting time of 11:00 pm. Tony got dressed in a Superman costume and had his buddy in the crane lift him onto the roof of the bank and then “fly” him down from the roof to the sidewalk at the front door when Tony signaled that Trish had arrived. Unfortunately, Dumbass didn’t think about a couple of things: 1) The roof of the bank was wired with sensors so that as soon as he landed on it he set off the burglar alarm; 2) He was still on probation for having robbed this very same bank four years earlier and the bank manager and police chief in town were still the same as then; 3) Wearing a costume in front of a bank that has an alarm going off when the cops arrive while you’ve got something black in your hand (even if it is just a jewelry box) is a good way to get yourself shot, especially if you are a known bank robber and you are tethered to a crane, aka a “getaway device.” Dumbass Tony’s funeral was on Wednesday of that week. Trish got married on Saturday to some other guy using the ring she picked up at the scene of the shooting, proving what a complete Dumbass Tony really was. Too bad. He would have liked seeing Hellboy II: The Golden Army. He’d probably have thought of it as a real tearjerker.

I can’t say I shed many tears at
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but I did think it was better than its predecessor. I think this is usually the case with superhero movies because the first ones always focus on the origin stories of the hero(es) and they spend far too much time being reverential in making sure that every bit of lore in the source material is replicated as closely as possible to keep the fans happy as clam(zilla)s. What usually happens is that the story itself outside of the origin suffers and it’s not until the sequel that the fans really find the superhero(es) they came to know and love. Think of Superman II, Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Spiderman 2 as examples.

Here Hellboy (Ron Perlman; Outlander) is having less than save-the-planet woes and more domestic discourse as pyrokinetic live-in girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair; My Mom's New Boyfriend) is hot enough under the collar over Hellboy’s slovenly housekeeping to become a live-out ex-girlfriend. This drama is enough to keep The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) in an uproar, but things are only beginning to rock because elsewhere a war is stirring.

An eons-long truce between mankind and the magical creatures of the forest <eyes rolling> is
being broken by some pasty-faced Woodland Prince, Nuada (Luke Goss; Deep Winter), who looks like he escaped more from Dawn of the Dead than Jane Eyre. What got up his leafy undergrowth is beyond me because his psychically-linked fraternal twin, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton; Vampire Diary) and his father, King Crabgrass or whatever (Ray Dotrice; Go Go Tales), seem happy enough living in the shadows with the rest of the trolls, faeries, and mysterious critters of yore.

Well, if Nuada gets his way, he plans to revive a Golden Army of enchanted robotic soldiers that have been inactivated for centuries. The key to powering the 49,000 warriors is in getting hold of a certain crown (Isn’t it always?). To keep that from happening, the sages from long ago broke the crown into three pieces and scattered them across the globe, so the plot, of course, is going to be about the race for the Triple Crown between Big Red and Damned Ugly. It sounds like quite a horserace, doesn’t it?

New this time around is Hellboy’s latest supervisor, an ectoplasmic gas bas from Germany named
Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane of tv’s “Family Guy” and “American Dad”), who bears the charm of a Catholic school nun with a wooden ruler in hand. He is not as charming as the departed John Myers (Rupert Evans; Arritmia) of the original, but he is a whole lot edgier. This chapter does pump up the role of that dare I say sexy (?) aquatic empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones; Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer), my favorite fish this side of The Little Mermaid.

Director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro, who helmed with the same duties on the original Hellboy, has improved greatly since 2004. His experience and “street cred” garnered by producing, directing and writing the critically acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth in 2006 has opened new avenues to him in terms of budget, special effects, and art direction. The more grandiose creatures of the invisible realm bear a striking resemblance to those nightmarish creatures that populated Pan’s Labyrinth, which isn’t so much distracting as creepy. Guillermo del Toro, or Bill Bull, as his name translates in to English, is a hoot of a director, and he makes his comic book hero one Hell of a lot more accessible than most, and there’s nothing Dumbass about that.

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