“Let this remind you why you once feared the dark…”
Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Runtime: 120 minutes
Starring: Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Selma Blair
Four years after releasing an adapted film version of the Dark Horse comic character Hellboy, Guillermo del Toro released a sequel which continues the story shortly after when the original was set. The team of Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman are once again protecting humanity from dark supernatural forces that threaten life. This time around they have a new team-leader, Johann Krauss – a German psychic ectoplasmic being, who lives in an old diving suit thanks to a botched séance in his ‘youth’. The threat to mankind this time around comes from dark elves, in particularly Prince Nuada Silverlance (sounds a bit regal doesn’t it). Back from exile he is attempting to reclaim his bloodlines crown and thus gain dominance over a golden army of indestructible warriors. Prince Nuada’s twin sister, Princess Nuala escapes with part of the crown and finds herself with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development with Abe fascinated by her. Her tyrannical brother is not far behind though thanks to a magic bond they share, but Hellboy is ready to come out of the shadows once again to save mankind.
Ron Perlman returns to the titular role again and once again gives a good account of himself. The character is torn in this film; having worked in the shadows for so long he longs for acknowledgement and acceptance from humanity, not as much for what he has done to protect it, but in equal measure just for who he is.
Doug Jones once again brings Abe Sapien to life, like he did in the first film. This time around though he does the characters voice too, something which he didn’t do in the first film. To some extent Abe has more of a leading role in this film; he is intrinsically tied into the central story via his attraction to Princess Nuala. Doug Jones steps into more roles too, playing the Angel of Death and Chamberlain, the doorkeeper for King Balor.
Selma Blair is back as Liz Sherman. The character has grown more since her first outing, she accepts her powers and is not afraid of her emotions. She is more self assured and she plays more of a pivotal role in Hellboy’s life rather than just being the scared damsel.
The Johann Krauss character is an interesting mix, at times feeling like a comedy addition but then equally able to deliver drama. Krauss is played by both John Alexander and James Dodd at different times, with Seth MacFarlane voicing him. He is a nice addition to the film and works well constantly butting heads with Hellboy.
Luke Goss and Anna Walton play Prince and Princess Nuada and Nuala Silverlance respectively. Twins and harmonized like Ying and Yang through their magic bond which makes them strong, but can equally be their downfall too. Although they are the ‘bad guys’ of the piece, or at least Nuada is, it is equally fair to say they are both lost souls from a race long forgotten. They both represent light and darkness at different times; for the most part Nuada is the darkness and Nuala is the light, but that can easily switch.
Like the first Hellboy film, del Toro did not just direct it, but he wrote the screenplay too. As such you will find a lot of the same poetry and art at play in this film. It bears a lot of the typical del Toro hallmarks being both dark yet fascinatingly beautiful. The first film was a little more reserved and felt like it explored the world which the comic book creator, Mike Mignola, had built in “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction“. In this follow up, del Toro has moved away from the comic book and created something different, something more settled in fantasy like the last film he did prior to this; “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006). The characters feel more self-assured within themselves and it’s based more on fantasy then it is on science-fiction. To compliment del Toro’s vision and writing, in comes Danny Elfman to make some wonderful music, and Guillermo Navarro to work on cinematography – both doing great jobs FTR. So, as well as the film feeling more self-assured and confident, it also feels noisier – but still maintains its beauty to look at and be absorbed by. It still has unique style and impressive make-up, prosthetics, effects, and scenery.
After watching this in 2008 I enjoyed it as much as I did the first Hellboy film, which, to recap: I was not totally blown away and they were far from perfect, but it was still great entertainment. When I re-watched this sequel again in 2021, I found the same sentiments sprung to mind. It has not aged badly at all, and it is still a fast paced and fun comic to film adaption that’s easy to pass a few hours with – plus, it’s packed full of monsters, imps, goblins, elves, tooth-fairies, and all sorts of nightmare creatures!!
Although a third Hellboy film has been widely talked about it never quite made it over the line. Instead, a reboot of the film was released in 2019. For his 2008 sequel though, I’m happy to give it a 7 out of 10 and a thumbs up.