Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a big red skinned demon with a huge hand, tail and his horns cut off - it's Hellboy!
Or to be more exact, the bigger budget Hellboy II.
I'm not sure what mainstream audiences will think of this movie. It's certainly a fantasy flick and you have to leave your skepticism at the movie theatre doors and suspend your disbelief to enjoy it, but Hellboy II: The Golden Army is definitely a fun, action romp which builds on the promise shown in the surprise hit original 2004 film.
Ron Perlman was made to play this part of Hellboy and makes him a believable and truly likable character. Refreshingly not your typical good-guy hero.
The basic plot of the film is that in times past 'Man' and the magical world reached a truce after years of bloody fighting which culminated in the King of the magical creatures having an indestructible Golden Army forged to destroy mankind. So distraught was the King of the Elves at his barbarous actions that he hid the army and dismantled the crown that controlled them.
This backstory is inventively told in flashback as a marionette like children's story, told to a young Hellboy by the returning John Hurt, as Hellboy's adoptive father, Professor Bruttenholm.
The King's son, Prince Nuada, chose exile because he believed his father was wrong not to crush mankind and now has returned to use the army to wage war once more with the world of men. So that's the basic premise of the film.
We also get to see more of the connections between the lead characters in this movie, with a pregnancy plot line in the developing relationship for Hellboy and his girlfriend, Selma Blair's character, pyrotechnic B.P.R.D Agent Liz Sherman, and a sweet love story for Abe Sapien and the magical Princess Nuala.
Along the way we discover the weird and magical world that Hellboy exists within, filled with killer Tooth Fairies, a winged Angel of Death and the wonderfully bizarre and alien Troll market. Plus lots of punching, shooting and pyrotechnics in the usual Hellboy style.
The character Abe Sapien has a much bigger role in this movie, plus new B.P.R.D. (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) agent ectoplasmic Johann Krauss is played for laughs.
Luke Goss as the film's main protagonist Prince Nuada provides a convincing performance. He's certainly come a long way from BROS, his late 80s UK boy band days with twin brother Matt. Although I wonder if he's getting stereotyped playing the 'villainous monster in make-up', after also playing head Reaper vampire, Nomak, in Blade II (also directed by Guillermo del Toro).
I loved the humour in the film. Any scene with a blue fish man and red demon bonding over a few beers and getting drunk is funny, and it had the audience laughing along.
Guillermo del Toro has such a distinctive visual style, especially after the wonderful Pan's Labyrinth, that he has to ensure that his films don't merge into one, as some of the creations in Hellboy II closely resemble the creatures from Pan's Labyrinth. If he's not careful he'll become a Tim Burton, who at times seems like he can only produce 'Tim Burton' looking films (which star Johnny Depp).
I'm sure I'm being overly critical, because Guillermo del Toro truly does have a fantastic imagination and creates wonderfully weird worlds, but it's something to watch, especially when he directs the upcoming Hobbit films.
For me there was something lacking from the original, but maybe that's because the world of Hellboy was so new and refreshing in the first movie. Ultimately I found Hellboy II to be an enjoyable second installment in this comic book inspired franchise. I'd give Hellboy II: The Golden Army 3 stars ***
For fantastic movie masks, props and models from Hellboy II visit Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props.