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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Ron Perlman
Selma Blair
Doug Jones
Luke Goss
Anna Walton.
Directors
Guillermo del Toro.
Screenwriters
Guillermo del Toro.
Running Time
120 minutes

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Make it last a little longer with Big Red


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Plot
Hellboy (Perlman) is struggling to accept the strictures of his secret life, or make compromises for the sake of his relationship with pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Blair). But with elf prince Nuada (Goss) about to declare war on humanity, he soon has more to worry about…


Review
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Perhaps the most grievous fault of the original Hellboy film was that there simply wasn’t enough of the eponymous demon-turned-defender-of-humanity (Ron Perlman) in it. With bad guys including a reincarnated Nazi-Russian magician, his Eva Braun-alike girlfriend, a self-replicating mutant and a clockwork-powered assassin, there wasn’t time to develop the main character beyond a penchant for pizzas, cats and his fire-raising teammate, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). This time the focus is back where it belongs - on Big Red and his friends. While they’re surrounded by a wealth of characters ranging from gorgeous to grotesque, this is a Hellboy film that gives the fans everything that they were hoping for first time around, and more besides.

The great white hope before release was that director Guillermo del Toro would manage to combine the two threads of his career here: the populist Hollywood comic-book movies like Blade II, and the imaginative flair and visual wizardry of Pan’s Labyrinth.

To some extent, he’s done just that; the creature design is extraordinary, the world an Art Deco masterpiece, every frame crammed with detail that begs to be freeze-framed and examined at leisure - particularly in the stunning Troll Market set-piece. And there is more going on than simply the ‘find bad guy, beat him up’ arc of a first-base comic-book story. Del Toro’s beasties have pathos: not one of them goes down without showing a moment of, well, humanity, and the bad guys are, arguably, the ones with right on their side.

That layering calls Hellboy’s role very much into question. He fights for the humans, yes, but he’ll never be accepted as one of them. And as a ‘freak’ himself, he sees beyond the monstrous appearance of the other magical creatures, causing him more than a slight pang when faced with killing a creature that may be unique, the last of its kind. That’s particularly true of a rampaging “forest elemental” straight out of Miyazaki, let loose on the streets of Manhattan on a mission to kill Big Red himself. Such layering is built into the design of the creatures: even bad guy Prince Nuada’s (Luke Goss) right-hand troll, Wink (Brian Steele), has enough expressiveness in the rubber face to add colour to a role that essentially does just involve beating people up and growling, while Ron Perlman’s Hellboy betrays subtle whispers of emotion with every twitch of his heavily prostheticised face. It’s typically del Toro, too, to make the ravenous, rampaging “tooth fairies” also strangely cute, and to give them a fondness for amateur dramatics (judging by one death scene, at any rate). Even his take on a facehugger looks like a cross between a squid and an orchid, while his Angel Of Death is terrifyingly, obscenely beautiful.

The creatures at the heart of this moral labyrinth are Nuada and his twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton). Twin heirs to an elf throne, separated by their opposing views on peaceful co-existence with humans but locked together by bonds of siblinghood, it falls on them to drive the plot, as Nuada schemes to rediscover and unleash the unstoppable, invincible Golden Army against humanity to restore a balance promised long ago, and Nuala seeks help to stop him. Perversely, after complaining that the villains got too much screentime in the first film, Nuada needs a tiny bit more to make a proper impact here. Another quick brooding scene, perhaps, in his subway lair, or a more thorough attempt to win Hellboy over to his side and explain his agenda, would give him more weight and make his cause both more appealing and more dangerous. It’s tempting to blame Goss, but he does a perfectly good job, even if it is much the same role as he played in Blade II.

But it is by no means all doom and gloom and moral philosophising. Hellboy and the Bureau Of Paranormal Research and Defence (BPRD) are much, much funnier than before, closer to the tone of the comics and the animated films than ever. A walk-and-talk through its corridors is elevated by some outrageous background shenanigans - think Men In Black’s headquarters - and the mournful comedy of Jeffrey Tambour as boss-man Manning. Meanwhile, the team is invigorated by the arrival of ectoplasmic German mist/mystic Johann Kraus (voiced by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane). His vast self-assurance, refusal to be intimidated by Hellboy, and stereotypically Teutonic efficiency make him the perfect foil for Big Red’s belligerence, Liz’s self-effacement and Abe Sapien’s (Doug Jones) tendency towards academic fascination. Sapien has a much increased role. Left out in the cold a little by Hellboy’s stormy relationship with Liz, he becomes fascinated with Nuala, in whom he sees something of a kindred spirit.

Their romance is tentative and lightly sketched, but Jones’ hesitance makes it rather sweet. He’s now voicing, as well as playing Abe (David Hyde Pierce had taken voice duties in the first film), and if he’s not quite as delicately intellectual, he compensates by perfectly matching his body language to his speech.

Meanwhile, Liz and Hellboy’s relationship may be quite literally fiery, but it’s also one grounded in real affection. That’s not to say that they express it easily: “I would give my life for her - but she also wants me to do the dishes,” complains Hellboy, somewhat missing the point in a rare moment of male bonding with Abe, amid the fistfights and explosions.

And there is plenty of action. The opening salvo is a puppet epic, as Hellboy’s father (John Hurt) reads the 11 year-old Red a legend about a war between man and magical creatures, culminating in the creation and deployment of the fearsome Golden Army, monsters that would be straight out of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth were it not for the cogs that power them. The puppets are a lovely touch, reminiscent of Strings, but from then on the action gets a little more grounded, relying more on prosthetics than CG, and variations on the theme of fisticuffs. Hench-troll Wink has the clever gimmick of a hand that flies like a medieval mace (more clockwork, of course), while Nuada uses a nifty extendable spear and wire-fu combo to keep things fresh. Admittedly, it sometimes feels like a string of events in s


Verdict
As much Tolkien’s baby as Mignola’s, this has more heart and humour than most fantasy films can dream of. Hellaciously good.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Empire Star Rating

we need a 3

okay there has been talk about no Hellboy 3 and thats so not cool he knocked her up and it ends? no, see you cant do that you have to further that weather its a point where they are teenagers or what but you cant do this. come on J.K. Rowling had 8 movies you can at least pull off one more. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by katt1339 at 17:05, 28 June 2012 | Report This Post


Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

An exceptionally directed, acted and written sequel, which has to be the most under-rated film of 2008 due to bigger blockbusters (a.k.a. The Dark Knight). This film is over populated with innovative creativity and magical ideas, which create a must-see result, that improves on the first film in every way. The characters are immersive, the script cracking and effects and locations eye popping. All the cast give first class performances and both the heroes and villains are undeniably effective. A... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JJB888 at 17:42, 28 May 2009 | Report This Post


I feel sorry for Del Toro ...any other than "Dark Knight year" and this would have been the blockbuster you HAD to see! Despite being battered at the cinemas, I hope it goes on to be respected as the awesome film it is on DVD! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SkullKassidy at 12:28, 09 February 2009 | Report This Post


del toros imagination has no end it seems. i am truely glad he is directing the hobbit. this movie has so much lavish visuals that i had to watch it again to fully take it in. the story is solid and the action great. my only negative point really is that THIS should have been the first hellboy movie and right now we should be experiencing an even better sequel. but none the less a great film ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobyfilm at 21:08, 28 January 2009 | Report This Post


Massive improvement on the first

This film is fantastic and going throught the special features has made me come to this conclusion about guillermo del toro....the man is a cinematic genuis and one of the best directors out there working today with this film he has crafted a fantastic mix of pans labyrinth creatures and worlds with modern day and this film is the comic book pans labyrinth with hidden big themes but also action, humour and romance and despite all the action and creatures and worlds and pure scale and beatuy and ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by THE DALTONATOR at 07:59, 25 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

While better than most films of the genre, Hellboy 2 was nowhere near as good as the first.  Del Toro tried to cram too much of his signature imagery in there in my opinion.  The fun and charisma of the first was lacking in spades. ... More

Posted by Vito_Andolini at 14:31, 18 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE:

As del Toro's follow up to the masterpiece that was Pans Laybrinth, this film had a lot to live up to. It has many of the flaws that dragged down the first installment: not enough character development and story-line that lacked depth. However in this film we see much more of del Toro's influence in the stunning creatures and inventive fight sequences. I agree with a previous post, saying that Prince Nuada lacked the hate factor that is essential in fantasy bad guys. He ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MathewRed at 13:50, 18 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: Fantastic

Just as entertaining and visually arresting as the first one. ... More

Posted by bozo at 23:13, 12 January 2009 | Report This Post


awesome!

i loved this film! superior to the first film, it was funnier, more action packed and had better character development. loved that Abe had a bigger role and i like the romance parts of the film, adds to the characters. the fights where amazing and the whole film was visually stunning, a real treat to watch! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Coyleone at 22:42, 12 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

When I saw it at the cinema I was a bit mixed, didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did the first, which I actually saw for the first time the day before. But I got it on BD for Christmas and watched it again last week and think it's brilliant. The creatures that are created are spectacular, especially the whole troll market scene. Still not a big fan of the Barry manilow song there but whatever. Also i watched the 2 hour 40 minute making of feature that explored EVERYTHING and it op... More

Posted by Samfran at 01:28, 09 January 2009 | Report This Post


RE:

Really enjoyed this - striking visuals, solid, smart script, good acting, ace film. ... More

Posted by bozo at 23:08, 08 January 2009 | Report This Post


Loved this film hated the Barry Manilow song and scene,hated the romances. Hollywood just cant do romances right ,almost no one can do it without it being fluffy or sickly. Also am I the only one who liked the young Hellboy? I thought the innocence shone through of his 1950s upbringing by the wonderful John Hurt and yes it was a little cheesy but hey I like cheese. As for the golden army what a disappointment,they werent on for long enough and they could easily have... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Headz_Up at 18:09, 27 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Better than I'd hoped

I really loved Hellboy 2 - the universe he creates just sucks you in it's so fantastic. Even minor touches make you laugh, like when Abe Sapien is going through the Troll Market and there's that creature with the accordion and when he turns around it starts bopping away he statement 'a visual feast' completely applies to this movie, it's an amazing work of art. For example the fight with the Elemental, it's death and the flowering life it spills onto the streets after it's demise was really sup... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 13:02, 23 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Better than I'd hoped

I thought it was pretty good but del Toro still seems like an ad or music video director to me. He handles single scenes incredibly well but is merely competent at actually meshing a full story together and Hellboy 2's a good example. each scene is visually lush and busy and the actions precise and fun but the jump from location to location and taking the narrative with it is pretty pedestrian. Pan's feels the same. I don't mean to be so picky with the guy, I really like watching his films... More

Posted by BigKovacs at 11:18, 23 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Better than I'd hoped

better than the first. Plot is Lord of the Rings-lite and a mere excuse to hang del Toro's inventive visuals and creatures upon, but the film does develop a surprisingly emotional aspect which held the interest more than I would have expected.(6/10) ... More

Posted by MOTH at 10:00, 22 December 2008 | Report This Post


Better than I'd hoped

This is one of the best sequels of all time - it's just gorgeous, full of action and invention. See it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 12:29, 19 December 2008 | Report This Post


Pue Escapism

What a fantastic movie. I agree, 4 stars is right on the spot!!! This director is on his way to the top. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Halo14 at 05:11, 04 December 2008 | Report This Post


Hellboy 2

Great movie. Good acting, good action, good plot, and good direction. Del Toro delivers ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 14:50, 29 November 2008 | Report This Post


Hellboy 2

Great movie. Good acting, good action, good plot, and good direction. Del Toro delivers ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 14:50, 29 November 2008 | Report This Post


Disapointing

I really liked the first one, but this was just all over the place! Where's the story?? And why in the hell did they come over here to Ireland, that was just weird, it wasn't used well. Very disapointing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by epdug at 21:05, 02 November 2008 | Report This Post


Beatiful and inventive, and fun, could have done without the OTT cheesy and stomach curling ickfest romance that is so typically Hollywoodies, the studio obviouslt interfered there. It might be on broader scale than the first but that had more soul (not that Hellboy 2 doesn´t). ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by NaturalHigh at 14:56, 18 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE:

I found it a bit disappointing to be honest....it was as other people have pointed out visually stunning but there's only so much dressing a film can take before you realise it's all a little predictable and dull.   It's more like the actual Hellboy comics than the first one and certainly is funnier but i just think it was half an hour too long and the fight sequence with the Golden Army just wasn't long enough. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JamesMcManus1 at 16:57, 13 September 2008 | Report This Post


finally got round to seeing hellboy 2. good fun if a bit on the predictable side plot wise. visually astonishing, and one of the most imaginative films of the year, well acted, very tongue in cheek and surprisingly funny and an improvement on the original hellboy. one thing, we have another summer superhero film with a dodgy 12a certificate. while not as strong as the dark knight, i have to ask, are the bbfc just making as many films as they can get away with a 12a just to sell more tickets?? i ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmnutrob at 16:58, 12 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I watched both Hellboy 1 and 2 for the first time on the same day and I can safely say that 2 cant beat the first. Still good though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by scarface666brooksy!! at 09:48, 12 September 2008 | Report This Post


hellboy 2

For starters i have to admit the young hellboy was nowhere near brilliant and was slightly dodgy, and no, the golden army is not in it as much as they could have been. But in my opinion, everything else about the film was great. The storyline is fantastic, and it explains very clearly about why prince Nuada hates mankind, it really gives you an understanding of what the films about. I loved the film from begining to end and did'nt get up to go to the toilet once all the way through the film... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by K.J.E at 22:13, 11 September 2008 | Report This Post


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