I came into this film with mixed expectations. When I saw the first Hellboy film, I left with lackluster emotions towards it. I felt it was corny and didn’t provide enough exposition to produce an effective comic book adaptation. The viewer left feeling like they didn’t know why this was happening. Who was Hellboy? Who was Rasputin? What are these Seven Gods of Chaos? However, since that faithful day in 2004, Del Toro developed a motion picture masterpiece in Pan’s Labyrinth and I found a new hope for the second installment of the Hellboy franchise.
Now, having seen the second film, I can say with much confidence that Del Toro has evolved greatly as an artist and as a storyteller. To start, in this film, he interlaces a Christmas Eve experience of Hellboy’s in 1955 with a bedtime story concerning the Golden Army. This provides a deeper glimpse into the origins of the protagonist while giving the viewer an understanding of the past to set the stage for the remainder of the film’s plot.
It can also be decided that Del Toro has developed a signature style for his “monster” for there are obvious commonalities between his monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth with the creatures of this film, the herald to King Balor and the Angel of Death being the most recognizable examples.
If one were to watch the first Hellboy film and compare it to the second installment, I would presume that it would be difficult to assume they were of the same director. Del Toro had developed into a more distinct creative mind and it is strongly evident in this film. However, in the realm of screenwriting, Del Toro still leaves room for improvement. Amidst fantastic powers, violence, wit, and the intriguing plot concerning the truce between the ancient races of Earth and human kind, Del Toro placed useless dialogue and scenes I can only believe were intended for comedic effect. If these were left on the cutting room floor, I believe that Del Toro could have provided insight into this curious alternative world living hidden beneath the realm of humans.
On a high note, the introduction of the German ectoplasmic spirit that is Johann Krauss (“there are two s’s”) to the BPRD team of Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman was a light-hearted and refreshing addition to the story. Apart from his ridiculously German accent (provided by Family Guy famed, Seth MacFarlane), Krauss provides new possibilities for the BPRD team as well as provide one of the most humorous scenes in the movie in his locker room skirmish with Hellboy.
It is rare to find a sequel that holds up to the first film and even more difficult to find one that surpasses it. However, I believe this sequel can be placed in the upper echelons of those rare few. With the additional exposition and a more developed understanding of cinematic storytelling, Del Toro had delivered a movie that provides the comic book enthusiasts with something they can enjoy as well as provides the masses with action, laughs, monsters and interesting central characters they can connect with. Overall, the movie is worth the money. Now lets see what Del Toro does with The Hobbit and Doctor Strange.