This is not really a review. I don’t feel I’m capable of reviewing Hellboy II in a objective way — telling you why it’s good and bad and then backing that up. I loved it, but I will allow that other people may not for very valid reasons. I loved it in such a way that it’s personal and beyond explanation.
It’s just a lot of fun.
This isn’t really Mike Mignola’s Hellboy (although he has co-credit on the story). This is Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy through and through, and I think that’s OK. I almost don’t even consider it a “comic book movie.” It’s a movie that happens to have comic book characters.
I think the Hellboy universe allows for plenty of room for lots of different stories to be told. Whereas the first movie sort of stuck to the history-mixed-with-Lovecraft spirit of the comic, this goes off in its own direction. I liked anime/fantasy-inspired plot — you know, vaguely Celtic mytholoy mixed with martial arts — with plenty of The Dark Crystal thrown in. The production design is to die for — incredibly lovely and wonderful. Del Toro has created his own universe here and there are scenes, such as the troll market, where there is not a human in sight. It feels very real and very wonderful (and I like that most of the effects are non-CG based. It adds to the playful “make-believe” feel of the movie).
What was always fun for me in the first movie was the relationships between the characters. For Hellboy, saving the world is just a job. He obviously enjoys it, but he also likes hanging out and eating and watching TV. Fighting monsters is just something he has to go do. In Hellboy II, this is much more in the forefront. Even when our team gets mixed up in Prince Nuada trying to destroy the world, they have their own things to worry about. Liz and Hellboy are having problems in their relationship (and Liz has news to share) and Hellboy and Abe even find time to go get drunk.
I also liked that Liz had more to do in this movie. In the first one, in the end, she just ended up as the damsel in distress. In this one, in her own way, she saves the day. She makes a beautiful choice that’s traditionally reserved for male characters. I really loved that.
And Doug Jones, as three different characters, is a force of nature. Even covered in makeup, he’s a wonderfully expressive actor and does a lot with very little. I don’t think this movie would be quite the same if anyone else was playing Abe Sapien.
In any case, I was entirely enchanted and not at all disappointed with it. It’s what I wanted a Hellboy sequel to be. If there’s a third one or not, I don’t care. Sure, I’d go see it, but I’m happy where we left this incarnation of these characters.
Will you like it? I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. But I know I did.