Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Navel Gazing for Fun and Profit

Contains spoilers for Hellboy II - The Golden Army

Hmmm – I’m not quite sure what to say about Hellboy II – The Golden Army, which is a peculiar position to be in. Perhaps it’s something to do with the film’s two extremes cancelling each other out in a kind of yin/yang implosion – visually, it’s incredible; screenplay-wise, it’s clunky and illogical. However, it’s witty and at least moves along at a fair old lick, which is more than The Dark Knight did. Strangely enough, the one aspect that Hellboy II and The Dark Knight have in common is a whole load of reflective navel gazing: does Gotham need a masked vigilante? Does the human race really deserve to be saved time and time again by Hellboy and his band of assorted freaks? Will Luke Goss ever consider reforming Bros (for the love of god, nooooooo!)? Questions, questions...

Even if Mark Ravenhill feels that Batman should spend more time punching people in the gob and less time philosophising about it, at least the script was consistent. Guillermo del Toro is obviously too enamoured of his often outré visuals to spend much time worrying about narrative logic or coherent sub-plots. Hmmm – maybe ‘coherent’ is the wrong word. One intriguing sub-plot – about how Hellboy and his chums in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense are called upon to rescue a human race that’s just downright ungrateful – is dropped as soon as another big ass action sequence lumbers into view. There's nothing wrong with the action sequences in Hellboy II - far from it, they're great - but they tend to trample on anything that just happens to be in the way.

Hellboy’s fight with a giant forest elemental – essentially an enormous piece of CGI celery – is a case in point. The visuals are often too strong for the narrative to withstand, so something’s gotta give: the twin annoyances of logic and plausibility are ditched, the idea being that you’re so overawed by del Toro’s newly minted ‘visionary’ status, you won’t even notice. Maybe some more navel gazing could have saved the day, but I doubt it.

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