Demons, Manilow: That’s Our Hellboy
Do you notice a slight resemblance of the red horned, demon carrying an oversized gun called Samaritan and an animated green ogre? Hellboy’s (Ron Perlman) body characteristics may resemble Shrek, but the red man with an adolescent personality hails from the U.S.A. Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense.
When “Hellboy II” ethereally nudges onto the screen, you might first believe you’re inside one of George Lucas’ Intergalactic CafÎ’s from the “Star Wars” flicks. Creative creatures take many forms from eight-legged snapping “tooth fairies” to gigantic dragon-like monsters with flipping tales.
“The Golden Army” sequel places the red-skinned demon with horn stumps up to his head in ectoplasm as a demonic king seeks to unleash an army of nearly invulnerable robots against the humans. The pursuit breaks a century’s long truce in which the magical creatures took the under-earth and rural regions of Earth, leaving the cities to humans.
Perlman has a dry, I can handle it, under-estimating attitude about any challenge, except the emotional peril that surfaces related to his girl friend Elizabeth (Selma Blair). They spar often with Blair asking a question typical of many relationships, “Do you need everyone to like you, or am I enough?” The red demon has reasons for appearance issues, but the likeability/lovability dilemmas have universal substance.
Impeccably, New York City has been chosen for the extreme mystic brawl, which has its share of intentionally scary demons and a cluster of “Ghostbusters” (remember them?) styled trolls, elves and comedic underworld entities (with a sense of humor). Since the city has a lengthy rep for its abandoned labyrinth of tunnels, the mythical homeless creatures of the night gel nicely with the big city’s forgotten mysteries.
Aside from the continuous quirky Halloween styled heads, the special effects thankfully (for the most part) dodge splashy explosions or hundreds of extras running for their lives. Instead, the F/X wizards have ceremoniously achieved nirvana in their blending of real and animation. One of the better sword battles has Hellboy and the villainous Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) fencing on a floor that has all the moving intricacies of a watch’s inner mechanics. The mechanized blocks, weights, springs and gears (all of which could be crushing) ticks off synchronized choreography for the swordsplay.
Astutely, Hellboy does not receive applause for superheroic rescues, but the demon with a good heart has a collection of quirky and/or goofy scenes, such as rescuing a baby whose mom’s afraid to retrieve him, a little beer drinking and (the best) a revival of a couple of classic Barry Manilow crooners, whose softness and slow melodies add smiles to the flick.
Guillermo del Toro writes and directs “Golden Army” as a mystic adventure, rather than as glorified save the world hero worship. This choice of treating the character (and his friends with powers) as mostly human, instead of mostly super-human, advances empathy and even trifles of thoughts here and there about how miserable and misunderstood it would be to be red, awkward, hard on the eyes and ashamed of two objects growing out of your head.
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