Guillermo del Toro returned in 2008 to continue his Hellboy story. With the minor success of the 2004 original, and being general critically well received it was decided that a sequel would be made. Once again it was written and directed by Del Toro from the original idea and comic books of Mike Mignola (who also has a writing credit on this sequel). And, as with any sequel you can expect things to be bigger, scarier and more excitinger! Long live the sequel!*.
(*as long as there is continuity in actors/directors/screenwriters/etc)
One of the major successes of the original Hellboy was the performance of Ron Perlman as the titular character and he returns as Red/Amung un Rama/Hellboy/Son of the Fallen One/World Destroyer (all great names for a great character, to be fair). Perlman is as charismatic as ever and slips back into the character with ease, oozing charm and stubbornness in equal measure and commanding the eye of the viewer.
If the first film was mostly focussed on Hellboy then this sequel allows the supporting cast of BPRD team members a chance to shine. Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) gets much more to do this time as the resident firestarter (OK so she’s a pyrokinetic) rather than just the object of Hellboy’s infatuation, Doug Jones gets to take up the mantel of Abe Sapien once again and puts his distinct physical spin on the performance of the psychic amphibian and the brains behind the team. Jeffrey Tambor, as the put upon head of the BPRD department Agent Tom Manning, gets to showcase some of his more comedic talents in facing off against this band of reprobates.
Hellboy II begins in nice style with the late, great John Hurt telling a young Hellboy a bedtime story about the history of Humans and the Magical creatures of the world. Long ago at a time of war between Elves and Men, the elf King Balor (Roy Dotrice) made the decision to create a Golden Army in order to win the war with the humans: 70 x 70 indestructible golden soldiers were to be created and be commanded by the crown. After this army decimated the humans a truce was agreed upon and the commanding crown split into three pieces. King Balor’s son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) leaves the magical kingdom in exile and disagreement with his father.
Years later after a long period of peace Prince Nuada returns and sets about attempting to reclaim the crown and then the control of the Golden Army in order to return the magical creatures to what he believes is their rightful place, laying waste to the humans in the process.
Hellboy II is a lot lighter in tone and a lot more colourful than the dark gothic style of Hellboy. Red’s own brand of humour is still evident but we definitely get more humour from the supporting cast as well. And there is definitely more of comic book style and feel to this sequel as we progress more into a fairy tale or fable brought to life than the dark, Nazi-themed plot of the original.
Del Toro has done a similar job with Hellboy II as he did with Blade 2: He has brought in some more characters, increased the humour-levels (even though both were looking at the distinctly unfunny topic of genocide or ethnic cleansing) and also brought in Luke Goss after working with him on the Blade sequel. Goss’s action work and fight scenes across these two films is exemplary and really makes him a serious adversary but in a completely different way to Hellboy’s Rasputin.
The finished film feels a bit more polished than the original and along with the brightness it gives it more of a comic book feel (even though the Hellboy comics are darkly coloured) and makes it more accessible and enjoyable a film than the original Hellboy. At times it did feel a little bit like Men in Black, particularly in BPRD base, showcasing alternate creature design and hinting at a wider world outside of the Hellboy storyline.
Hellboy II has been better received than it’s predecessor but only just. Managing to almost double its budget of $85 million and frequently appearing in the Best Comic Book film lists, including a sprinkling of awards nominations and wins. It is off the back on this that a third instalment was planned but due to calendar clashes and ongoing issues meant that it never got off the ground despite many wanting on the inside of the project wanting it to. After the success of Hellboy II some spin off ideas were explored, with Abe Sapien in the lead role and exploring Prince Nuada’s vast timeline. This plan was unfortunately thwarted by the announcement of the upcoming reboot.
This upcoming reboot of the Hellboy franchise is going to be interesting to see how it relates and fits into the well received original films. Without Guillermo del Toro at the helm has meant that there is no Ron Perlman (who stated that he would only do it if del Toro was in charge). Having the understated David Harbour taking on the lead role is going to be a bit of a departure from Perlman’s performance. Having Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) directing and coupled with the more serious looking images of the new Hellboy it may be a departure but an interesting one at least.
It is a shame that once again a film series hasn’t finished the way it was supposed to in the minds of the creatives behind it but what we did get was an enigmatic character brought wonderfully to life across two varied films. Both have their strengths but Hellboy II just edges it for me just by being that bit more fantastical and lighter in tone.
Originally published on Set The Tape