Birth of the Demon Part 4 (Hellboy: the Golden Army, 2008)

Hellboy_Golden_Army_PosterDel Toro’s follow up introduces the most vicious tooth fairies you have ever seen.

An Elven Prince has decided that it is time for the magical world to rise up against humanity, breaking an ancient pact. He seeks the Golden Army, an ancient legion of un-living and unstoppable soldiers.

An elven princess (and twin sister to the prince) interferes and enlists the help of Hellboy and the Bureau of Paranormal Research.

This results in the team at the Bureau having to dive deep into a world of magic and wonder. Hellboy finds himself torn between the protection of the human world and the callous disregard of the lives of magical creatures.  For Hellboy, this is personified in his relationship with Liz. He struggles with his insecurities, though, thankfully in this film, they left out Agent Myers, so it is not dragged down by that character.  Instead, Hellboy struggles to see himself as more a man than monster. One of the things I liked in both films is this notion that Hellboy is not a slave to his heritage.  His father believed in his ability to be a good man above a destructive monster, and in this film, Liz takes that role from Broome.

For Abe, it is deeply personal as he falls in love with the Elven Princess. There also is a lot of Bureaucratic interference, not just from Jeffrey Tambor’s Tom Manning, but from the (no longer human) Johann Krauss.  Voiced by Seth McFarlane, Krauss is actually a very entertaining foil for Hellboy for much of the film.

This time around Del Toro fully embraces the whimsy and myth.  The character designs or wonderful and grotesque, often at the same time (though the Elves are simply beautiful and angelic).

Perlman, Blair and Jones have a really solid chemistry and it delivers a believable close connection between these three characters who feel like they are always on the outside of the world they are sworn to protect.  It is especially nice to see Jones getting to provide his own voice, getting to give a fully realized performance.  He keeps the gentle tone, keeping this from feeling like a huge departure from the first film.

Hellboy: the Golden Army is much stronger than the first film in pretty much every way.  The Golden Army holds up under repeated viewings and is a great film that has a lot of fun with its concept.

Birth of the Demon Part 3 (Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron, 2007)

Hellboy_Blood_and_Iron_PosterThis time, along with Perlman, Blair and Jones, John Hurt reprises his role as Professor Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm.  Borrowing from the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, Blood and Iron is a tale that spans two times. The early life of Broom dealing with a vampire queen and the present with the BPRD investigating a haunted castle in the same town.

As usual, there is a demonic goddess who is driving things, and she tries to tempt Hellboy to turn his back on humanity, while the vampire queen seeks revenge on Broom for a confrontation that had occurred decades earlier.

Unlike Sword of Storms, the team gets to interact more throughout the movie, which is an improvement.  We also get action hero Abe Sapien, jumping around and firing guns. While vampires and werewolves are not quite as inspired of monsters as the Japanese folklore of Sword of Storms, but the story makes up with this, including a snake goddess and two odd witches.

The animation of both films look better than the initial stills I had seen.  And the character designs seem even a bit stronger in this film.

I am not sure exactly where these films are supposed to fall.  Are they outside of Del Toro’s films? Are they part of that universe?  The fun notion of using the live action actors has a lot to do with the uncertainty I have.  But wither way, the Hellboy Animated films are pretty fun.

Birth of the Demon Part 2 (Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, 2006)

Hellboy_Sword_of_Storms_PosterAfter the theatrical Hellboy saw moderate success, the studio greenlit a series of animated film.  The first was Sword of Storms.

A professor finds an ancient scroll that tells the story of a samurai who defeated two storm demons and traps them in a sword. The professor becomes possessed from reading the scroll and goes missing.

While investigating the the missing professor, the Bureau finds the sword. Upon touching it, Hellboy is transported to another world, a mystical version of Japan.

Basically, the film completely separates Hellboy from the rest of the cast. While this could have worked, nobody else gets much to really do, they are just searching for Hellboy.  However, Hellboy is constantly dealing with fun monsters inspired by Japanese folklore.

The big draw for the film was the live action film’s voice cast appearing.  And we get some of the chemistry, but by separating the cast for much of the movie, it never feels like they get to gel…and granted, part of that may be due to the process of recording for animation, as actors are often not interacting with each other.  I feel this is especially true with Jones’ performance…which feels a lot more aggressive than his vocal performance in the Golden Army.

The character design Sean “Cheeks” Galloway is pretty slick and stylish, with its own distinct look.  It turned out that one of the conditions of the animated films was that the animation style could not look like the art of Mike Mignola, which had been the directors’ original plan. While that might have been cool, Galloway’s angular and cartoony style is quite good.

While not quite as fun as the live action Del Toro films, there is some really fun sequences in this animated take on Hellboy.

Birth of the Demon Part 1 (Hellboy, 2004)

kinopoisk.ru

Guillermo Del Toro was already familiar with the world of comic book films.  He had directed the highly entertaining Blade 2 just two years earlier. But Hellboy was right in the Del Toro wheel house.

Hellboy, a demon pulled from a hell dimension during World War 2 by Nazis and raised by a kindly scientist working with the Allies, is part of the Bureau of Paranormal Research.  They keep an eye on the supernatural happenings throughout the world.

We are introduced to this world, and Hellboy, through the eyes of the newly assigned Agent Myers.  Myers and Hellboy struggle to get along. Especially when it appears that his crush, Liz Sherman, may be attracted to Myers.

Hellboy is a lot of fun.  Largely this is due to the performances from Ron Perlman as the titular Hellboy, but also the aquatic Abe Sapien. Performed by Doug Jones (with a studio mandated of David Hyde Pierce, who actually refused his credit, feeling the entire performance was created by Jones*) Sapien is brimming with kindness and empathy.  Selma Blair gets to be more than the love interest.  She is a pyro-kintetic who has been an outcast and is trying to come to terms with it.

The plot is almost kind of irrelevant, the film is more about the odd whimsical and supernatural experiences.  The villains are largely stock (the exception being the very creepy Kroenen.

Some of the digital effects have not aged greatly (and yet, sadly, still are stronger than what we got in the newest Hellboy). But the make-up in the film is terrific.

While flawed in parts, the film remains an entertaining romp.

*This experience, along with Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (where Doug was overdubbed by Laurence Fishburne) has resulted in Jones requiring in his contract that his vocal performance be used in his roles.

Rebirth of the Demon (Hellboy, 2019)

Hellboy_2019_PosterFor a time it appeared as if 2008’s Hellboy and the Golden Army was the last time we were going to see Hellboy on the big screen. But then, a few years ago, new talk of a third Hellboy film emerged.  Guillermo Del Toro and Perlman both had expressed plenty of interest.  But then something happened.  Creator and owner of Hellboy, Mike Mignola and Del Toro could not come to a unified vision and Mignola brought his character to a new creative team.

Rather than continue the story began with the Del Toro films, Mignola, Director Neil Marshall and screenwriter Andrew Cosby start fresh.  Hellboy is tasked with fighting the all powerful Blood Queen to save the world.  Dismembered by King Arthur, an evil creature who seeks revenge on Hellboy starts to piece her back together. Once she regains all her power, she will be able to unleash monsters upon the world that will bring about the end of humanity.

But Hellboy is the key to her goals, so not only is Hellboy having to fight the bad guys, the good guys largely do not trust him and some are actively out to kill him. Hellboy also struggles with his relationship to his earthly father Professor Broom and their goals.  If their purpose with the B.P.R.D. (Bureau Paranormal Research Defense) is killing monsters, why did he save Hellboy at all?

It is hard not to compare this with the two prior films.  All three had good casts. Harbour is pretty good in the role. Ian McShane is a very differy Professor Broom.  He offers similar sentiments about Hellboy’s potential, but he is a far gruffer father figure as opposed to John Hurt’s kindly old man.

Sasha Lane is an interesting addition as Alice Monaghan, a psychic and medium with a long friendship and connection to Hellboy.  His main conflict within the team is Ben Daimio.  A military man who hides a big secret and has no trust for Hellboy, Daniel Dae Kim manages to avoid the cliche of the guy with a big secret not get annoying. It is hard not to miss Abe Sapien in the film, as he was such an integral character in the previous films.

Milla Jovovich is, honestly, playing a pretty stock evil character, but it works in the context of the story. I appreciate that the film continues to use the creatures of myth, such as faeries and bizarre ancient looking gods.

I think the new Hellboy design largely works and does not feel like they are just trying to imitate the Del Toro looks.  And yet…

Well, the film treads some similar territory as the first. We are getting a new beginning… but the plot is hinged on Hellboy possibly bringing about the end of the world and his temptations to do so. We get some of the same visuals we have seen in the previous films, with no real fresh approach.  Growing horns, flaming crown…but the story just never feels like it finds it’s footing as a new and exciting role.  I never felt a real rush of excitement or engagement- in spite of liking the characters.

While some of it works, there is also a lot of really dodgy CGI that is, at best, about as good the stuff we saw in the previous two films over ten years ago.

Finally…the film is ridiculously more gory than is necessary.  It is full of digital blood and absurd levels of violent gore.  Where as the Del Toro films delighted in the monsters and fantasy, this film seems to find its joy in simply being gory. I guess this should not surprise us, as the filmmakers did talk about the freedom of an R-Rating…and just a few days before the film’s release the studio released a trailer all about how the film is an awesome orgy of violence and language…full of grossness and gore…and the swears.

I actually hate having to say that this film is a real disappointment.  While I was disappointed when the work with a third Del Toro film fell apart, I still hoped the new team would create a memorable and fun film. It has a great cast, some fun ideas.  And with a better story?  We could have gotten something great…both fresh and familiar…and it just is not.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑