Monday, July 14, 2008

At the movies: Hellboy

I'm out here in LA to cover television, but with a rare night off yesterday, I slipped down to the neighborhood multiplex to catch "Hellboy II: The Golden Army." Some brief, not-too-spoilery, thoughts on it (you've already seen how busy my day is) coming up just as soon as I crank up the Manilow...

I liked but didn't love Guillermo Del Toro's first "Hellboy" movie. Ron Pearlman brought a perfect amount of earthy sarcasm to the title role, and there were a lot of amazing things to look at, but it felt too busy -- like Del Toro wanted to include so many concepts from the comic books and from his own imagination that he didn't have enough time to focus on the storytelling.

"Hellboy II" follows the pattern. There was no shortage of amazing things to look at -- I was particularly fond of the plant monster -- and if Hellboy himself didn't have quite as many funny moments as in the original, the Seth MacFarlane-voiced Johann Strauss -- relentlessly, hilariously German -- more than made up for that.

But there were only a few sequences in the movie where I felt fully-engaged by the story and characters, as opposed to just impressed by the craft and imagination on display. The drunken lite-FM singalong was really the only part where Hellboy made me laugh, the narrative felt very lackadaisical, and the villain made almost no impression. (The movie also badly needed a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" moment where the bad guy did all of his showy but pointless flips and twirls and jumps and then Hellboy either shot him or punched him in the face.)

As with the first one, there are enough good and creative things going on that I'm glad I saw it, and on a big screen, but I'm still waiting for Del Toro to make a movie with these characters that's firing on all cylinders.

What did everybody else think?


erin said...

Ah, thank you. I saw it this weekend, after mostly great to glowing reviews (and I enjoyed the first one), and I was underwhelmed. I thought the story seemed messy--no great backstory on HB and Liz, the villain was whatever, and I thought it could have been edited much better (2 hours is way too long for a comic book movie). It just seemed a little sloppy to me, so I'm glad to hear you kind of agree with that. I was expecting more from Del Toro, especially after hearing so much about Pan's Labryinth (which I haven't seen). It was my least fave comic book movie so far this season (which says a lot about how many comic book movies that are out there!)

Unknown said...

To me, Del Toro is like a 12-year-old boy, so excited about telling you all the details of a story that he completely forgets HOW to tell a story. This movie was, for me, just Too Much. Apart from the Manilow scene, the movie wasn't allowed to breathe, and after about 30 minutes I was just exhausted. (And we've seen most of these creatures before, in other Del Toro movies, so some of them just left me bored.)

Then again, I've just officially come to the conclusion that Del Toro is on the list of Directors Who Just Don't Do It For Me; I'm one of about three people I know who wasn't blown away by Pan's Labyrinth. For me, his imagination is all surface, no depth; I don't feel any sort of emotional bond with any of his characters (in any of his movies, really), so regardless of how stylish his movies are, I'm just left cold.

"Exhausted"... "bored"... "cold". Wow, even I think this all sounds a little harsh! :)

Anonymous said...

Make that four. I thought Pan's Labyrinth was unbelievably tedious. The Devil's Backbone is his best movie, I think. Loved that one.

Hellboy? Ehhh. Del Toro is a visual genius and a storytelling dunce. I'll go see Hancock again and wait for this to come on FX.

Anonymous said...

I'm five, on Pan's Labyrinth. I found it about as nihilistic as Sin City, to be honest.

I thought this was fun, but it was no Iron Man.

Karen said...

Calling "six" here. I was incredibly unimpressed with "Pan's Labyrinth," despite it being exactly the kind of movie I generally enjoy. All sizzle, no steak.