I wonder if I’m the only one who was underwhelmed by Hellboy II. My view of the Hellboy movies is likely tainted by my liking the comic and Mike Mignola’s art very much, and I have to keep telling myself that the movies are more like an alternate reality of the Hellboy world rather than an adaptation of the comic.
Even so, I don’t think this movie stands out among Guillermo del Toro’s works so far. Overall weak characterisation (with Abe Sapien self-pityingly becoming Data from Star Trek: TNG and Johann Krauss depicted as a bully), awkward gags (Most of the audience laughed during the scene with Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You. I was half-horrified though — had to keep telling myself it’s an alternate universe…) with plotholes (Uh, if Nuada knows what Nuala know then why does she go look for the map?) and an inexplicably dubbed young Hellboy in the prologue. (No pancakes? =p)
The homages are a nice touch: Prince Nuada is a really a version of Chang Kong in Zhang Yimou’s Hero (played by Donnie Yen there), with brilliant martial arts skills. del Toro even includes a scene where Nuada slaps a water drop with his spear, recalling a similar scene in Hero. Maybe I’m stretching it, but the plant elemental sequence seems to reference the Alan Moore run of Swamp Thing, especially his death.
It’s not that del Toro’s bad, but that his unique visual and directoral style are so overwhelming that Hellboy and the rest of the B.P.R.D. seem out of place as characters, as if they’d somehow wandered onto the set of Middle Earth and instructed to fit in. Already, Hellboy II is a incongruent mix of Mignola and del Toro’s worlds, and the film suffers from it overall.