Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Is the human race worth saving?
That's the unanswered question looming in the background of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Guillermo del Toro's sprawling, take-no-prisoners follow-up to his comparatively timid first stab at Mike Mignola's unconventional comic book superhero four years ago.
The red-skinned, cigar-chomping Hellboy (Ron Perlman) is still a demon fighting on the side of the angels, alongside pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), amphibious empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and their colleagues at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. But does an ungrateful, greedy world deserve their efforts? Given a choice between heroism and happiness, between saving the world and saving one's beloved, will self-interest always win out?
Amid a welter of eye-popping creature-feature smackdowns and stunning visions of grotesquerie, Hellboy II finds time to toy with questions like these. If Hellboy II is a Middle Movie, as it seems to be, answers may or may not be forthcoming in Hellboy III.
Ironically, it's Christmas Eve as Hellboy II opens in a prologue set in 1955, when Hellboy was but a little Hell-BOY (as opposed to the current fully-grown Hell-MAN) living with his adopted father Prof. Bruttenholm (John Hurt) at an army base. The season is a reminder that salvation has already come to mankind—though Hellboy, like many kids at Christmas, isn't thinking about the Savior, but about that other fellow who comes at that time of year. And when he asks Bruttenholm to tell him a story before bed, the professor cracks open a big old book and reads a mythic tale of primeval paradise lost—but it doesn't bear much resemblance to the early chapters of Genesis.
In the beginning, the tale goes, men, elves and other supernatural creatures coexisted peacefully on earth. But man was "created with a hole in his heart," and in his "infinite greed" sought to overrun the earth. This led to war between men and faeryfolk, and to the creation of the unstoppable Golden Army—a force so terrible that the wise Woodland King decided it must never be used, and struck a treaty with man to share the earth, with cities for men and forests for creatures of faery.
Meanwhile, untold millennia later in the real world, it turns out that creatures of magic have gotten the short end of the stick, having kept their end of the treaty while humans blithely did as they pleased. The aged Woodland King accepts this with passive resignation, reasoning that it is their nature to keep the treaty just as it is man's nature to break it.
However, exiled Prince Nuada (Luke Goss, One Night With the King) isn't content to fade away while man bulldozes forests to build shopping malls. Nuada wants total war, Golden Armystyle—and he's willing to kill his own kind to get things started. The main hitch: His twin sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton, Vampire Diary) flees with of the three pieces of the magical crown needed to control the Golden Army.
That's the setup to an ever-escalating battery of showdowns including a bloody coup in faeryland, attacks by swarms of disturbingly feral fairies, a melee in an underground troll market, a sprawling combat with an enormous vegetative forest god in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and of course a climactic confrontation with Nuada and the Golden Army.