“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” — Signals the March of Time — 2 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

If you still haven’t had your fill of faux-gothic tales, wherein mystical/and or comic superheroes, attended by volumes of liturgy and lore, serve as models for the eternal fight between good and bad, lightness and darkness, truth and falsehood and whatever else reeks of universal quandary, then “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is for you.

However, if you rue the day that George Lucas conjured the Mos Eisley bar for “Star Wars” (1977) and thereupon launched a ceaseless competition to replicate and permutate all manner of gnome, elf, druid and otherworldly creature in every sci-fi fantasy to date, then this second coming of Mike Mignola’s comic book character is to be avoided.   

Granted, writer-director Guillermo del Toro is quite a craftsman. Odds are it would be different if he were the first one to regale us with the uber fairy tale characters that, as far as most adolescents are concerned, now comprise central casting.

Which makes me wonder. If I were around to pen these tortured opinions in the 1930s and ‘40s, during the zenith of the screwball comedy, would I have soon tired of the similar themes, the acknowledged satires, the standard witticisms? Would the films all seem to run into each other? Would I sing about no longer getting a kick from Lombard?

I’d like to think not. And in all fairness, that’s how a substantial portion of Hellboy’s adherents feels about their comic book/ fake world genre. There doubtlessly is an identifying solace. For others, it’s like trying to hear a silent dog whistle.

Separating the story from the technological chaff, there is nothing novel here. Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), the epitome of evil, having had enough of the centuries-old peace between elves and humans, decries the increasing decadence of mankind. He intends its total annihilation by awaking the Golden Army.

Naturally, or, more appropriately, supernaturally, said feat can’t be accomplished without all the pieces of the golden crown. Put it together and presto change-o, the fabled force is ready to decimate whosoever you wish. Trouble is, Nuada’s dad, King Balor, who owns a piece of the crown, believes a treaty is a treaty.
Suffice it to note, Prince Nuada doesn’t care how his actions might be judged at the next family reunion. Conversely, his twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), while sharing all sorts of cosmic and spiritual threads with bad boy bro, sees dear old dad’s viewpoint. When Pop resists, Nuada shows us how bad he really is.

Of course, fighting this villain will require more than mortal mettle. Which is where Hellboy (also known as Red) and his colleagues at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense come into play. A bizarrely creative collection of diverse super sorts, they do the word motley proud.

Jeffrey Tambor is Manning, their clichéd, put upon and hence constantly exasperated boss. Funny because authority figures charged with containing the uncontrollable humiliatingly prove you can’t stifle individualism, he is charged with seeing to it that his Bowery Boy-like rascals remain covert.

During the last lifesaving adventure, our super iconoclast, effectively portrayed by Ron Perlman, had the chutzpah to sign an autograph. His principal cohorts are more discreet. Attractive Selma Blair is Liz Sherman, Red’s love interest. A pyrokinetic, she can turn into a torch at will. It proves convenient.

Doug Jones is Abe Sapien, an aquatic empath and Red’s best pal, in case you didn’t know. Abe’s major contributions are his smarts and his intuition. And because someone just has to, his falling in love with the princess adds a sweet subtext. P.S.- He knows a secret about Liz and Hellboy.

Indeed, there are these soapy operatics, included because, as described to poetic perfection in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” no matter how much the brave new generation doth protest, there’s no denying the immutability of love. The rest of the film is about war, with time-outs allotted to dwell on Mr. Perlman’s curious antihero.

Cigar perennially perched in mouth G.I Joe style, beer-drinking, and plain–talking, he curses softly and carries a big gun. We doubt neither his altruism nor the tacit insinuation that, despite his uncertain origins, he, like Yankee Doodle Dandy, is a real live nephew of his Uncle Sam. The image is altered only to disguise the goodie-two-shoes of it all.

A quick-splice interview with James Lipton (available on YouTube) lends a humorous insight into the character. Problem is, the entire film is a jam-packed tapestry of such fleeting intricacies. Thus while the great unwashed can hardly catch their breath long enough to dig the jive, one suspects the multi-tasking target masses will find the non-stop effusions of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” nothing less than heaven sent.

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” rated PG-13, is a Universal Pictures release directed by Guillermo del Toro and stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Luke Goss. Running time: 110 minutes

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