“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” might be the most overblown movie I have ever seen.

The sequel to the barely successful 2004 original is so stuffed with visual effects heavy action sequences and ear splitting sound effects
that it is almost overbearing.

Luckily, in the hands of writer/director Guillermo del Toro, these sequences are so well realized and so ingeniously and uniquely conceived
that the film almost becomes a highlight reel.

Del Toro is a legitimate visual master of the cinema and the combination of superlative visual effects, incredible art direction, and skillful
cinematography easily boost “Hellboy II” above its predecessor.

The film is also a shoo-in for at least a nomination in the makeup category at next year’s Oscars and gets an energetic score from Danny
Elfman that manages to keep up with the visuals.

But “Hellboy II” is really only one step above the original.  Despite all the incredible visuals (or perhaps because of them), the script feels a
bit flat and unbalanced.

The front end of the film is so packed with action that it’s not until about halfway through the film that we start getting any character
development or any sense that the plot is really moving forward.

Even when these elements start to get going, they feel a bit unrefined.  There are moments between Hellboy and Liz later in the film that
would have been much more powerful had they been given a more focused thematic thread throughout the rest of the film.

The script is also a bit weak in the humor department, but luckily the fantastic cast helps to sell it.

To its credit, the non-visual elements do improve as the film goes on, and “Hellboy II” builds to a satisfying conclusion with just enough
drama to keep the film from being a video game.

And even though the characters come through somewhat in the end, the real reason to see the film is still the endlessly imaginative visuals
and fun action sequences.

Hellboy is an enjoyable character, especially played by the likes of Ron Perlman.  It’s just too bad that the film couldn’t combine the best of
both worlds.  There was a potential for something truly special here.

Still, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” is a fun film with glorious visuals and just enough character to make it an easy recommendation.  Nice
work, Red.

* * *
(out of four)
HELLBOY II:
THE GOLDEN ARMY

Written and Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke
Gross, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor

Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro

Music by: Danny Elfman

Released: July 11, 2008; 110 Minutes