Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Director

I've liked Guillermo Del Toro since the dubious but strikingly visual Mimic. Directors who make more of the material than is actually there impress me, like Gore Verbinski. But where Verbinski seems to have gotten a little drunk with big budget pirate movies, del Toro takes on the comic book genre to produce one of the best and most original approaches to date.

He even managed to bring back John Hurt in a flashback sequence to when Hellboy was about 10.

In this installment, Hellboy--played by the inimitable Ron Perlman because Del Toro insisted--must fight to stop an elf prince from awakening the invincible Golden Army, built in some lost era when men and elves and goblins fought battles on the earth.

The trio of Hellboy, Liz (Selma Blair), and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) is rounded out by an "ectoplasmic" German fellow, Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), who walks around in a sort of space suit and is something of a stickler for protocol. Returning is Jeffrey Tambor (who must soon be cast in "The Dr. Phil Story") as the agency's front-man with a difficult relationship with Hellboy.

The investigations begin at an auction house invaded by evil "tooth fairies", move to the "Troll Market" and ultimately wind up in Ireland. (Actually, I think the whole thing was filmed in Eastern Europe, to make it possible to accomplish with a "mere" $85 million.)

I'm not sure what part of this comes from the comic books, but it looks completely Del Toro, stylistically. The "tooth fairies" remind me a lot of the fairies in Pan's Labyrinth.

Incidentally, Pan in Pan's Labyrinth was also played by Doug Jones, who has two other roles in Hellboy, as the Angel of Death and the Chamberlain. He also played The Silver Surfer in the recent Fantastic 4 movie (but not the voice, which is Larry Fishburne) and all the imps in the Doom movie. I guess the mime training paid off.

However, in the first movie, as was readily apparent to anyone who had ever watched even a single episode of "Frasier", Abe Sapien was voiced by David Hyde-Pierce. For years, this has been driving me nuts, since it was so clearly his voice, yet--at Hyde-Pierce's insistence--only Jones receives a credit. I only recently confirmed the truth.

I do think however, Jones provides the voice for Hellboy 2.

Del Toro is quite masterful at moving between rather realistic modern settings to high fantasy, and at least one critic complained that there's so much to see, that the movie's main flaw is that it doesn't give you a chance to stop and look at it. I can empathize, but it is a superhero movie after all.

This movie is fast, funny, touching and epic. It could have--and this is something you know I don't say often or lightly--even been longer than the two hours it supposedly runs. (I imagine there's about 20 minutes of credits, though.) And we saw the midnight show, and I was really tired.

In short, this is a good summer movie. Take that Chris Nashatawy!

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