HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
Following the extraordinary acclaim enjoyed by Pans Labyrinth, Del Toro became recognized on the wider (ie. non-genre) stage. As a result he now seems to have his fingers in every imaginable pie with reported adaptations of the Marvel comic-book Dr Strange, H.P. Lovecrafts At the Mountains of Madness, a new version of Pinocchio and Frankenstein, Disneys Haunted Mansion ride and a duo of Hobbit movies for Peter Jackson, ending with co-screenwriting credit on the finished trilogy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), as well as producing other works like the Spanish ghost story The Orphanage (2007), the non-genre Rudo and Cursi (2008), the backwoods thriller While She Was Out (2008), Julias Eyes (2010), Vincenzo Natalis genetically engineered monster movie Splice (2010), Dont Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) and Mama (2013), as well as the tv series The Strain (2014-7) based on his novel, even producing/consultancy work on a host of animated films Megamind (2010), Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Puss in Boots (2011), Rise of the Guardians (2012) and The Book of Life (2014). Del Toro finally settled on his next project as being the giant robots film Pacific Rim (2013), followed by the ghost story Crimson Peak (2015) and the amphibian man romance The Shape of Water (2017), which won Del Toro an Academy Award as Best Director.
Hellboy, adapted from the Mike Mignola comic book, was one of Guillermo Del Toros least satisfying works, although enjoyed a healthy cult afterlife subsequent to its cinematic release. Del Toro and Mike Mignola also oversaw two animated spinoffs with Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms (2006) and Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron (2007). With Hellboy II: The Golden Army here, Del Toro makes a sequel. Del Toro has taken the opportunity of being able to command a much larger budget to expand the original out onto a wondrous scale. Although, rather than further superheroic adventures or more of the same the demonic combat of Hellboy, Del Toro takes The Golden Army in other directions. The Golden Army is less a superhero film than one that slots into the eccentric fantasy worlds peopled by strange creatures that have popped up in recent years see works like Takashi Miikes The Great Yokai War (2005), MirrorMask (2005), Luc Bessons Arthur and the Invisibles (2006) and indeed the labyrinth sequences in Pans Labyrinth.
Del Toro takes enormous delight in peopling Hellboy II: The Golden Army with an menagerie of eccentric and offbeat creatures Mr Wink, a giant troll that has a huge rock-like fist that blasts off his arm on the end of a chain; a horde of malevolent tooth fairies that devour human bones; guards with black beaked heads that look like predatory birds; a shop assistant with a head that has been built like a wooden model cathedral; the arrival at the Giants Causeway to be greeted by a creature with a small cart instead of legs and an angel of death that has no face excepting for a shell and eyes around its wings. During the venture down into the Troll Market, the creature effects people go wild in terms of creations. There is also an amazing prologue telling the story of the elves and the forging of the crown, where Guillermo Del Toro has seemingly set out to imitate the Danish puppet fantasy Strings (2004). The best of the new creations is that of Joachim Krauss, a character taken direct from the comic-book who consists of ectoplasm and lives inside a diving suit with an opaque glass helmet for a head the scene where he provokes Ron Perlman who ends up punching him and puncturing the helmet is side-splitting. The big set-piece of the film in terms of creatures and effects is when Nuada unleashes the Elemental in the streets of Manhattan, where the seed grows into a massive plant creature rampaging about the streets. What is so striking about the scene as say compared to the similar monsters that raged through the area in Godzilla (1998) and Cloverfield (2008) is how the concern in the sequence is less about putting on a display of mass destruction than it is over Hellboy killing a creature that is the last of its kind.
This time Guillermo Del Toro seems to have much more of an ease with the characters who are delineated with far more roundedness, particularly Selma Blairs Liz. There is an amusing running B-plot about Hellboy and Lizs relationship problems. As in Hellboy, The Golden Army is anchored by the wonderfully laconic and laidback performance from Del Toros regular contributor Ron Perlman. The most amusing scene in the film is where Hellboy and a lovesick Abe Sapien both get drunk to the accompaniment of Barry Manilows Cant Smile Without You (1978).
More disappointingly, Guillermo Del Toro seems so absorbed with his creatures that he never invests too much in creating the screenplay. This is fairly rudimentary and tends to travel in a straight-line it is eminently predictable, for instance, from the point that Del Toro introduces the brother and sister who share each others injuries that she will save the day by sacrificing herself. In a way, the perfect co-writer for a future Del Toro project would be Neil Gaiman. Gaiman fantasies like Neverwhere (1996) and MirrorMask perfectly mirror the world of strange creatures that Del Toro is trying to create here indeed you could easily imagine the venture into the world of the Troll Market as being another corner of the secret underworld of Neverwhere.
(Winner for Best Makeup Effects, Nominee for Best Actor (Ron Perlman) at this sites Best of 2008 Awards).