Hellboy (no spoilers)

nuadaSo in my never ending quest to be entertained by blockbusters (huh? ) I went to Hellboy II this weekend. The special effects: think the best parts of the star wars trilogy (no not the new ones) and fantasy films like Labrynth and Legends. Would that I could sit inside del Toros brain for just one day . . .

The plot: the idea for the plot was timeless – the greed and violence of the human race has to be checked by the ageless magic that came before it. As Prince Nuada say’s “Which genocide would you choose?” unfortunately the execution of said plot was . . . ummm . . . non-existent outside of the prince turned king, whose name is a reference to Irish celtic mythology about the clash of two kingdoms.

The acting: mostly bad, one cringe worthy and yet well executed moment involving singing. The shining exception is Luke Goss who infuses Prince Nuada with pathos and pathology beyond the caliber of his grunting titular adversary in this film.  Almost all of the “monsters” in this film, with the exception of the toothfairies, are all far more sympathetic than the Hellboy team and blair_hellboyiigolden_galthey put in better performances as well. I actually felt much worse for the monster with the retractable hand than I did for Hellboy, and the death of one creature, the last of its kind, is one of the most painful ones in the film. These moments make us question humanity and the meaning of honor and equality. They are moments in which the film is at its best, however not moments that I think most people going to Hellboy will recognize as the true cinematic gift of the fim.

There is also far too much of Blair in her underpants; which I am sure some of you will be giddy about, I’m just noting that many times there is no excuse for it and almost always it is in scenes when she is acting like a stereotypical whining, moody, incomprehensible “woman.”

The social representations: many different minor and major female characters most incredibly interesting and asangelofdeath respectful as a throwaway script can be. There are, as alluded to above,  some minor offenses esp with Liz. I was disappointed to see Liz’s character reduced to shrill and moody background noise. I think her powers are compelling and the fact that she has now grown into them, ie can control them, could have been a doorway to look at her growth as a powerful female superhero.

There is one differently-abled person in the film who is both scavenger (some will find that offensive) and the mastermind behind the most powerful creatures on the planet. It is a bit part drawn out by a long speech about scavaging that is punctuated by the meant-to-be jarring image of the characters body and movements. I also think there is an embedded morality lessons in how this character has “devolved” from a proud craftsman praised by the King to the ragged beggar that hinges in part on 2008_hellboy_2_the_golden_army_045disability.

There is minor queer window dressing and one reference to interracial dating as a critique of hate. Both are done much better by shows like Farscape. But again these are side moments meant to humanize the non-stop action going on as the film unfolds and not central to the plot in anyway. (Except for the fact that Hellboy’s own status as not-human is consistently alluded to as the reason he will ultimately turn against the human race and one that Nuada tries to appeal to and then exploit to no avail.)

The most ancient race is pale, white,  and platinum blonde kind of like many of the elves in Lord of the Rings . . .Do I really need to trot out the hegemonic messages involved in that one? Or perhaps point to Lucy, the oldest known remains, which were found in Africa? Didn’t think so.

The moral compasses of all of the wouldbe heroes in this movie are completely off as well.11_hellboycreatures3

Overall, I wish they had actually gone with a script and explored the plot. In del Toro’s capable hands I cannot even begin to imagine what the end result would have been, after all this is a man who made me feel pathos for a mechanized hand monster, a beanstock ancient, and yes, Prince Nuada, who was a meglomaniac on far too many levels. Watch Hellboy for the questions raised by Prince Nuada’s speeches and the magical mind of del Toro. Then go home and watch The Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage, and Pan’s Labrynth for well-rouned entertainment. (I actually re/watched all 4 of these movies this past week and again I say, ahh to sit in del Toro’s brain for just one day . . .)

8 thoughts on “Hellboy (no spoilers)

  1. Yeah, what was going on with half-dressed Liz? “Hellboy, I’m leaving for a while, but first I’m going to take a nap in your bed wearing hot pants”Thanks for the other point you brought up. I wish I’d given my review more thought before I posted it – trying to get it done late at night after seeing it meant I missed commenting on quite a bit that was just as offensive as you have mentioned.

  2. yep it didn’t really make sense. I thought your post was quite thorough on the gender thing. I just really didn’t think they had enough character development to bother.

  3. I found Prince Nuada the most compelling reason to watch the film, and indeed bought it only because of him.

    I’ve loved the tortured hero iconic figure in film and books all my life, and especially fall for those on quests for the sake of restoring balance to the world. To Nuada, who had watched his people constantly pushed into the darkness and destroyed, there simply was nothing else he could do except come out of exile and wage war. I’ve almost worn holes in my DVD watching the Deleted Scene called Prince Nuada Silverlance. The music in that cut scene was by Danny Elfman, who used the same piece in Planet of the Apes, the Matrix, and one more film I can’t recall. It fit perfectly. It as as if they choreographed each move to the song.

    In the film, the scene is no more than a minute long, and the deleted scene is a little over 3, but was originally 10. Luke Goss trained for 3 months to do that type of fighting. How frustrating must that be to learn so many moves and then have it cut to 30 seconds or less? Aaarrgh.

    I’d definitely love to see a spinoff movie about how Nuada came to be exiled in the first place. Luke Goss would have to play him or it wouldn’t be worth watching. He was flawless in that performance, and his final words to Hellboy are so rich with pathos that it breaks your heart.

    The actor said he played up the incestuous tendencies the prince had toward his twin sister, who, while it was obvious that she spurned him, also loved him dearly, enough to sacrifice all to save him from his last, horrendous mistake — the destruction of his honor that he so valued, and was about to lose for the sake of vengeance. In a way, she was his conscience.

    I love this film and it’s on my keeper shelf. I’ve watched it a number of times. While shopping today, I saw a bonus DVD set that came with a belt buckle like Hellboy’s. I held it in my hand and stared at it for about 5 minutes, finally put it back and ended up buying an X-men trilogy. Hardly the same, but at least now I have all 3 of those stories.

    Good post. Great to find a thoughtful review.

    • welcome to the blog Kayelle. Nuada definitely did make this movie and I too would see a spinoff about how all of these magical creatures got pushed underground.

      • thank you! glad to be here.

        One of the trivia items about this movie is that Nuada’s father was played by Roy Dotrice, who on Beauty and the Beast (years ago) played a character whom the Beast (Vincent) called Father. For those who might not know, Vincent was played by Ron Perlman who is Hellboy. I would’ve liked to hear their conversations about old times.

  4. Hey!

    Just saw the film, Nuada made it like you said. It was epic, beautiful film material and there just is so much you can do in film today.

    Personally, I would like to see Drizzt Do’Urden in that spinoff movie about Nuada.

    Cheers!

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