Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Devil is in the detail

At last! The long embargo is over. I can finally talk about Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

As you know, back in June I met director Guillermo del Toro and saw some early footage of the film. Then I went to see a press screening of the whole film about a month ago and loved pretty much every minute of it. So it's been hugely frustrating not to be able to talk about it until now. In fact, it's still frustrating. I saw the film so long ago that I'm not sure I can remember it well enough to review it. I'll have to go and see it again. But that will be no chore, I assure you.

Joel Meadows, who I saw it with, has written a pretty good review on his Walls and Bridges blog and I agree with pretty much everything he says. So, rather than repeat his words, I'd advise you to go and read his take on things. I will, however, say that the difference between this sequel and the first Hellboy film is the difference between Star Wars 5: The Empire strikes back and Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace. One is mediocre, the other delicious (you know which is which ... bloody Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians ...). Hellboy was us watching del Toro with the Hollywood yoke around his neck. It meant the introduction of a pointless 'normal' character - Agent Myers (just in case we thickie cinema goers couldn't relate to all of the main characters being freaks), dull traditional monsters, and Abe Sapien's voice being provided by an uncredited 'celebrity' i.e. David Hyde Pierce, which meant that Abe never quite worked as a main character. Hellboy II, by comparison, is del Toro unchained and has all of the humour and inventiveness of his earlier work like Blade II, Mimic, and, most obviously, the Oscar-nominated Pan's Labyrinth. Which brings me to what I will talk about - the design; the extraordinary design that lifts this film above the swamp of your everyday, traditional monster movie.

As I reported in an earlier post, del Toro and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola have got together an amazing coterie of some of the world's brightest and most original visionaries to create Hellboy's world. Chief among them is Wayne Barlowe whose several books about the denizens of Hell seem to have come to 3D life in this film. I've been a huge fan of his work for over 20 years. The production team have done an amazing job bringing his creations to the screen as you can see from the various pictures peppering this post.
There was also exceptional concept work by Francisco Ruiz Velasco, TyRuben Ellingson, Stephen Scott, Sergio Sandoval and others that must not be ignored. Thankfully then, there are two excellent art books that have come out to accompany the release of the film: The monsters of Hellboy II and Hellboy II: Art of the movie and both are stuffed full of their designs and sketches - and Barlowe's of course. The behind-the-scenes design is often of more interest to me than the finished film, so I love books like this and have a pretty good collection of them.

This Summer has seen some waddling turkeys (Indiana Jones 4, Clone Wars, Hulk) but some soaring eagles too. Iron Man was excellent, Hancock showed promise and The Dark Knight, of course, has simply ridden roughshod over everything else. But do give Hellboy II: The Golden Army a chance. Visually, it's stunning and by far the most inventive film you'll see this year. It has its faults, as most films do, but they are more than overshadowed by some great performances from Luke Goss, Doug Jones and Family Guy's Seth McFarlane as the voice of gaseous entity Dr Johan Krauss. And the Golden Army of the title is brilliantly brought to life with some stunning CG work.

Go and see it. You'll laugh. You'll gasp. You'll say 'What the Hell was that??!!'

7 comments:

Stuart Peel said...

Can't wait. Was Indy 4 a turkey then, I got the feeling you quite liked it ?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Hi Stu - Nice to see you back! Indy 4 was okay, especially in comparison with rubbish like National Treasure 1 and 2, But as an Indiana Jones film it was a turkey. The ending in particular made me feel ill it was so bad. They should have left it at a trilogy.

Stuart Peel said...

It's very nice to be back, thanks. I haven't seen Indy 4 yet, but I had grave doubts about the wisdom of it. Hasn't Lucas got enough money yet ? Oh and I hear Clone Wars isn't much cop either.

joelmead said...

I thought Indy 4 was okay with some nice moments but doesn't gel as well as two of the other three. Clone Wars was okay: it's a kid's movie. The only thing that is really annoying is the Truman Capote soundalike that is Jabba's cousin, which made me cringe. But it was entertaining…

Stevyn Colgan said...

I've heard nothing good about 'Clone Wars' at all I'm afraid ... Joel's comments are the kindest I've seen. And yet the Genndy Tartakovsky cartoon 'Clone Wars' was brilliant! Why didn't they just build on that?! Or just simply stop ...

Anonymous said...

have you ever even read Hellboy? This movie was an abomination that trampled the lore and raped the characters established by the work it was based on. Next time do your research.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Hello 'Anonymous' (at least have the conviction of your views to say who you are),

Sorry you feel that way. Can't help feel you're taking a comic all too seriously. I've met Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro and they both love the films. Mike retained complete control over the script throughout and, after all, it's his baby. So if he's happy, so should we be.

Films are very different beasts from graphic novels. You can't be quite so two-dimensional in a film and comic plots and characters need to adapt for the big screen. We've all seen how it can go horribly wrong with Batman and Robin, Judge Dredd and almost everything written by Alan Moore. The Hellboy films aren't perfect as I said in the post but I found them enjoyable and entertaining. I'm sorry you didn't feel the same but that's what having individual taste is all about.

Oh, and I do own and have read every Hellboy and BPRD issue to date so I have 'done my research'
as far as it is possible to 'research' a comic.