22 Aug 2008


Review by Matt C

Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Runtime: 120 mins
Certificate: 12A
Release Date: 20 August 2008

I’m probably not the best person to review Hellboy II as a comic book adaptation since I’ve only dipped my toe into the character’s illustrated adventures, and while I can appreciate their appeal – and can’t deny creator Mike Mignola’s considerable talent - I never felt sufficiently compelled to return again and again. A couple of chaps I know are well into Hellboy, and if there’s anything I’ve noticed about their enthusiasm, it’s that folk who love Hellboy really love Hellboy. But, while I may not be fully equipped to contrast and compare with the source material, I can review it for what it is: a Hollywood comic book action movie with a dash of arthouse sensibilities.

I’m pleased to say it is a superior film to the original – 2004’s Hellboy was a lot of fun and obviously ambitious, but that ambition that wasn’t quite matched by the end product, and it was clear that the relatively small budget evaporated as the film progressed (one explanation for Abe Sapian’s virtual absence in the third act?). What it did have going for it was Guillermo del Toro’s passion for the characters and the note-perfect casting of Ron Perlman as the titular hero. It’s a cliché in this kind of movie, so I’m going to avoid saying he was born for the role, but you really can’t imagine anyone else succeeding in giving Hellboy such humanity and believability.

Returning for a second round, it’s clear Del Toro and Perlman are supremely comfortable with both the character and the world they’ve created for him to inhabit. There’s a larger budget to play with this time, and although it’s nowhere near the kind of money thrown at The Dark Knight or Iron Man, you can tell very penny has been used wisely and it’s all up there on screen for everyone to see. The movie rattles along, full of energy and some quite striking visuals: del Toro’s fascination with clockwork mechanisms - which goes way back to his movie debut, Cronos - is still apparent in some ingeniously constructed sequences.

Where Hellboy II fell down for me was in its emotional resonance – while it provides a hugely agreeable couple of hours worth of entertainment, the characters don’t really get under the skin completely and there alway feels like there’s a distance between them and the audience. One brilliant scene does connect though: Hellboy and Abe, drunk in the library, singing Barry Manilow’s ‘Can’t Smile Without You’. More moments like that would have nudged this up a notch, but as it stands it doesn’t quite come close to matching some of the other comic book delights we’ve seen in our cinemas this summer. Still, while it’s not the kind of film that has me chomping at the bit for another instalment, if one were to come along I would certainly go see it. 7/10

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