Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"You Can Suck My Ectoplasmic Schwanzstucker!"

In 2006 the Oscars were buzzing for one of the hottest young directors in the business. Someone who had proven himself time and time again to make truly imaginative, creative and masterful films. The movie being buzzed about was Best Foreign Film Oscar Nominee Pans Labyrinth and the director in question is the wonderful, Guillermo Del Toro. Of course Del Toro was known before this Oscar win with Hellboy, Blade 2, Mimic and a few others, but after his victory at the awards he was given free reign to pretty much do as he please. His first choice, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

With all that Del Toro is known for already established, the main question anyone would be asking is; Where does Hellboy II stack up against his other films? Not only this, but in a summer filled with blockbusters, where does such a unique voice land with the American public?

Our story follows Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who is having trouble with his significant other Liz (Selma Blair) who can force herself to become entrenched in flames. In the midst of this lovers tryst we have a Prince Nuada of the mythical world, for which Hellboy truly belongs too. Nuada starts a rebellion against the humans on earth to get back that which he believes is rightfully his. In between all of this Abe Sapien (the magnificent Doug Jones) falls in love with Nuada's twin sister Nuala and gets heartbroken because he isn't sure how to express this love.

If the story sounds a little convoluted to you that's because it kind of is. But this isn't exactly a problem. Del Toro balances the love stories, the fantastical elements and the action perfectly to really make this a wonderful and entertaining film.

The main thing the film does right that so many films this summer have done terribly wrong, the villain seems capable of actually winning. Hellboy actually has to struggle to get ahead at all. Not only that but the reasons for Nuada having a rebellion seem to make perfect sense to me. If I were in his shoes I don't believe it would be any stretch for me to at least be angry. This is wonderful because Del Toro is able to get us to altogether disagree with and despise the villain while at the same time empathize with his plight.

If compared to the first film I would say this one is unequivocally funnier. The inclusion of Johann Krauss is absolutely wonderful and Seth McFarlane is perfect as the voice of the German, Gaseous blob that is sent to lead them.

Another wonderful thing about Hellboy II if compared to some other bloated blockbusters of the summer, it seems light and fun, while still able to add some depth to it. It does go a little into X-Men territory at some points with Hellboy being cast out by the humans and thought of as a freak. I liked the idea of adding this layer to the Hellboy vulnerable yet tough persona, but I don't think it is given enough weight to be a truly integral part of the film. It seems almost to be a distraction because the sub-plot almost goes no where. It does plenty to offer up food for thought though, and we get a wonderful shot of Hellboy yelling while standing by a television playing The Bride Of Frankenstein's climactic ending.
The failures of the film would mainly lie in Del Toro's tendency to be a bit indulgent with his fantastical, other-worldly stuff that it detracts a bit from the story. For example, we get a wonderful scene in the Troll Market that echoes some other famous scenes filled with imaginative creatures and wonderful choreography and Del Toro sets it up to be a little more important than it really is to the overall plot.

Another thing that became a slight detraction was how after spending a perfect amount of time setting up certain things, the characters were given a pass and some magic creature could fix everything easily without letting a little set back really create tension and suspense. If there is anything that hurts Hellboy II it is it's lack of suspense. The suspense is there, but only in small portions.

The main thing that can be said for Hellboy II is that it is definitely worth seeing. It's flaws are minor and really don't take away from anyone having a wonderful, entertaining experience with the film. Check your reservations at the door and just look forward to having a good time with a comic book film in the vein of Tim Burton's Batman.


Fletch said...

Yeah, I think the most underrated part of this movie is something you touched on, and that's the relatability of the "villain." This wasn't just some dude hell bent on world domination - this is someone that whose actions we could truly understand.

El Fauno said...

While arguably the strongest (and most deserving) of the nominees, Del Toro's PAN'S LABYRINTH did NOT win the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, as erroneously stated above.

The Academy Award went to the German drama THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Das Leben der Anderen), a worthy recipient, but not a better film than Del Toro's masterpiece.

(Makes you wonder whether Johann Krauss' delivery of the line "Suck my ectoplasmic schwanzstucker" wasn't meant for the Academy voters...)

By night's end, Pan's Labyrinth won Oscars in three of the six categories in which it was nominated: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Make-Up.

Dead Pan said...

El Fauno---Thanks so much for the comment. Also, thanks for the correction, I truly don't know what I was thinking, but I did really believe that Pan's Labrynth won. I guess it was a desire that I wished happened, so in my head it came to fruition.