‘Hellboy’ latest superhit


4 of 5 stars

        When “Hellboy” hit theaters in 2004, director Guillermo del Toro did not have much respect in the critical community.

    “Hellboy,” though, was decidedly above-average for a comic book movie. It blew contemporary films like “The Punisher” and “Elektra” out of the water and gave us a superhero that looked more like a villain. Del Toro made a good movie and almost $60 million at the box office, but a good comic book adaptation still does not usually bring a lot of praise from jaded critics.

    That all changed with “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Del Toro showed unbridled imagination in a Spanish-language film that earned three Oscars and the critical praise he deserved.

    Suddenly, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” became appealing to people who had passively overlooked the first film. But even if “Hellboy II” is riding on the success of del Toro’s most recent film, it deserves all the attention it gets.

    The plot revolves around mythical creatures that have honored an ancient truce by staying hidden for thousands of years. Their prince returns from exile to start a war with humanity using the indestructible Golden Army.

    The plot might sound a bit nerdy, but the real focus of the movie is character development. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is having relationship trouble with his girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair), professional trouble with his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) and territorial issues with his new team leader, the robotic German Johann Krauss (Seth MacFarlane).

    As Hellboy battles trolls and forest monsters, he also has to deal with his newfound publicity. In the beginning, he desperately wants to reveal himself to the world. When his cover is blown, he realizes that humans are relatively unkind to anyone different.

    Hellboy’s aquatic sidekick, Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), also has issues to deal with. Jones played Sapien in the first movie, but his character was voiced by David Hyde Pierce. Pierce refused to return for the sequel, saying that Jones deserved a chance to bring his own characters to life, and Jones does an excellent job moving Sapien beyond a simple supporting role.

    Visually, “Hellboy II” is stunning. The special effects and imaginative creatures are worth the ticket price, and the numerous action scenes should please anyone who just wants to see Hellboy’s enormous fist in use.

    The movie also has an excellent sense of humor, highlighted by a scene in which Hellboy drinks beer in the shower while contemplating a broken relationship, only to sing a drunken version of Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You.”

    “Hellboy II” also avoids the comic book sequel syndrome of more villains and less brains. As Hellboy protects humanity, he realizes that he has more in common with the creatures he is fighting than he thought.

    With this week’s release of “The Dark Knight,” another critically praised comic book adaptation, “Hellboy II” should not get lost in the shuffle of summer blockbusters.

Brendan Praeger is a senior in journalism education. Please send comments to edge@spub.ksu.edu.