You know what's weird? Teeth. They're just little bones that live outside your skin.
It's also weird that nobody was all that jazzed about Hellboy, yet everyone I knew was fired up about Hellboy II: The Golden Army. This probably has something to do with writer/director Guillermo del Toro's universally beloved Pan's Labyrinth, but I think it has much more to do with the use of Rammstein songs in all those movie trailers.
Rammstein's potential energy is so strong that if we could find a way to grind them up and pump them into our gas tanks, oil wouldn't be useful for anything more than dumping on the road to spin out the cop cars trying to chase us down for murdering Rammstein. I know this is only a pipe dream--in reality, Rammstein is invulnerable, and even if they weren't, they could hear our thoughts and strike us down with one crisp German curse before we got near them--but apparently Rammstein answers prayers, too, because Hellboy II is just about as great as everyone seems to have hoped.
Long ago, mankind declared war on the elves, goblins, trolls, and fantastical beings who shared our world. On the verge of defeat, the mythical peoples built the Golden Army, an invincible mechanical legion they used to force a truce which has lasted to the present day.
Now, elvish prince Luke Goss seeks to break that truce. His unsubtle effort to obtain the crown that commands the Golden Army sets Ron Perlman (as Hellboy) and the rest of the paranormal crew on his tail.
Because if Goss gets that crown--and the only thing stopping him is his sister who fled with the final piece--the jig is up for mankind. Perlman and Selma Blair's romantic problems aren't going to mean much when we're all living under the boots of thousands of unstoppable mechanical men.
The really impressive thing about Hellboy II is it not only improves on what the original did well--strong action, inventive creature design, an offbeat sense of humor--but it opens up both the inner world of its characters and the outer world of the fantastic alternate universe they inhabit.
The difficulty in establishing the ground rules of an alternate universe may explain why superhero sequels are often better than the first entry. (And if that rule holds true for The Dark Knight, look here next week for where to make donations to my ecstasy-induced funeral.) Hellboy II feels like more than a franchise stretching its wings, though. Instead, its careering humor, clockwork pacing, and perverse exploration of love feels like the work of an artist at the top of his game.
An artist who really, really loves monsters. Listening to del Toro's voice on his commentaries is a hypnotizing pleasure, but I'm not sure I'd want to spend any time inside the man's head.
Judging by the otherworldly, beautiful-but-scary designs of the creatures facing off against Perlman's team, del Toro's nightmares must make yours and mine look like a chaste kiss on the cheek. On the plus side, when you can channel that into scenes where a big burly devil shoots the goo out of a glowing moss-monster the size of a water tower, I think the nightmares are worth it.
When that sheer imagination takes the movie to the brink of whimsical overload, all is forgiven the next time the game cast dives into a hilarious session of bonding and/or fighting. It's a rare gift when a director can entertain you on this many levels. That just makes it all the crazier we've had so many great comic book movies in the last few years. Even amongst its most laudable peers, Hellboy II stands out as a witty, exciting trip you couldn't have imagined before seeing it on the theater screen.