Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Dark Horse

While I was a fan of the first Hellboy movie I never followed the comic or delved into the animated shows. Going into Hellboy II I was relieved that I didn’t need to rely on the canon to follow the story or make the connections.

If you’ve seen the first movie the first 30 minutes of the film will be a bit tedious. You don’t need to see the first movie to follow the story but the character introductions in the movie are a bit awkward, especially so if you’ve seen the first film.

The film opens in the past, after the end of World War II. Hellboy is still a juvenile (portrayed by a very annoying child actor) and his adopted father is reading him the legend of the Golden Army as a bed time story.

Many generations ago the humans and the fair races lived in relative peace until the greed in the heart of humanity overwhelmed them and they set out to purge the world of the supernatural. Upon a brutal defeat at the hands of the humans, King Balor of the elves is approached by a master smith of the goblins who proposes to build the king seventy times seventy (4900) golden automatons to aid their war against humanity.

But upon seeing the sheer destructive power of the Golden Army, King Balor calls for a truce with the humans. The humans will stay to the cities while the other races will remain in the forests. King Balor breaks the golden crown that controls the army into three pieces, one for the humans and two for the elves. And for untold years the Golden Army would rest and the memories of the supernatural races would fade from the minds of men.

This truce didn’t sit well with the king’s son Prince Nuada who has been in a bitter, self-imposed exile since the truce was made. When the crown shard given to the humans shows up at an auction in the present day, Prince Nuada steals it and slaughters the auction goers attracting the attention of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (or B.P.R.D.). Hellboy and his cohorts are called to action.

Prince Nuada and Princess Nualla
Dark Horse

While the film isn’t exactly spectacular, it is successful. It can best be appreciated as a “buddy movie” or “comic book movie.” It doesn’t quite cut it as a pure action movie because the fight scenes are so hit-or-miss. Any fight with Prince Nuada is sure to be an exhilarating battle, where as most of the other fight scenes are mere showcases of the brute strength of Hellboy.

The addition of non-human characters outside of the employ of the B.P.R.D. added much to the movie. Instead of these non-humans existing in isolation they are now part of a much larger world that extends below the surface of our every day reality. This is best illustrated in the Troll Market scene. Trolls hang out under bridges, so it’s only natural for the Troll Market to be under one of the oldest bridges in New York – the Brooklyn Bridge. The merger of the mundane and the magical is where this movie shines the most.

Whether you’ve seen the first Hellboy or not, this movie ably stands on its own. While it doesn’t do everything right (weak love stories, wishy-washy characters) it gets enough of it right (cool fights, high octane action and superb special effects) to justify the movie itself. If you’re looking for a modern fantasy buddy film you can’t really go wrong with Hellboy.