Review: For brazen Hellboy, it’s not easy being red

Life is never easy for the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense’s human minions.

Saddled with the already-daunting task of keeping tabs on the government’s worst-kept secret — a hulking, cigar-chomping demon known as Hellboy (Ron Perlman) — they seem hopelessly ill-equipped to defend themselves against more menacing beasts.

In Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 adaptation of Mike Mignola’s popular comic, the bureau’s flesh-and-blood agents were torn apart by overgrown insects. In “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” are devoured by spider-like parasites.

If their duties seem thankless, consider the quandary facing mutants such as Hellboy — whose square-jawed scowl aptly suggests a prickly disposition and his incendiary girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair).

With their cool-headed comrade Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) in tow, del Toro’s superhuman peacekeepers are charged with protecting a public that considers them monsters. They police their own kind, only to retreat to a clandestine, Batcave-style lair, where they hide from society. The ultimate indignity? The place is in Jersey.

While the first “Hellboy” found its hero struggling to accept himself, sawed-off horns and all, “The Golden Army” is more a coming-

out party, as the lobster-red menace begins to embrace his roots with something resembling pride. This presents a dilemma when Nuada (Luke Goss), prince of the forest creatures, returns to Manhattan to lead a revolt against mankind.

Should Hellboy reject his fellow freaks to defend those who mistreat him? It’s a head-scratcher that lends “The Golden Army” real emotional resonance. Iron Man and Batman may be human, but they are never as emotionally accessible as Hellboy, who’s just as likely to be belting Barry Manilow tunes as he would be body-slamming a troll.

Indeed, del Toro’s story, which tempers the gloomy threat of a holocaust with the cartoonish swagger Perlman brings to his role as a brazen, stony-fisted trash-talker, is as much a sly romantic comedy as a no-holds-barred adventure.

Clearly, the Mexican-born director has a deep affection for both his characters and the world of gods and fairy-tale monsters, and it translates into a rich, sophisticated sequel that actually improves on the original.

It also is a film whose visual majesty surprisingly surpasses del Toro’s last feat of the imagination, the Oscar-nominated “Pan’s Labyrinth.” And yet his lavish sets and hellish demons would be little more than exotic eye candy were it not for his gift of storytelling and his respect for the power of fantasy. During a season filled with superhero adventures, “Hellboy” stands alone as the strongest of the lot.

CREDITS

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

4 stars

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor

Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mignola

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Police release an image a cracked windshield on a Prius that Cesar Vargas allegedly tried to carjack. Vargas, who was shot by police a short time later, can be seen in videos jumping on the windshield and pushing a Muni passenger who disembarked from a bus. (Courtesy SFPD
SFPD releases videos of deadly police shooting

Cesar Vargas killed after reports of carjacking with knife

New legislation would make sure supportive housing tenants don’t pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent.. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner))
Supportive housing tenants could get more help paying the rent

Supportive housing tenants struggling to pay rent could soon see their payments… Continue reading

Organizers of the San Francisco International Arts Festival had planned to use parts of Fort Mason including the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery to host performances by about a dozen Bay Area arts groups. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Arts festival sues city over permit denial

Organizer says outdoor performances should be treated like demonstrations, religious gatherings

An oversight body for San Francisco’s mental health programs may be restructured after questions were raised about its management and lack of effectiveness. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Behavioral health oversight body looks for new start — and staff — after mismanagement

Members of an oversight body for San Francisco’s behavioral health programs said… Continue reading

The City requires the recycling or reuse of debris material removed from a construction project site. <ins>(Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
<ins></ins>
Permits proposed for haulers of construction debris to achieve zero-waste

San Francisco plans to tighten regulations on the disposal of construction and… Continue reading

Most Read