Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Director Report Card: Guillermo del Toro (2004-2008)

5. Hellboy
I haven’t read too many “Hellboy” comics but I’ve seen enough to know what a spot-on adaptation this is. It nails all the characters and the comic’s quirky tone while also allowing the director to show of his unique eccentricities.

Ron Perlman really shines in a rare starring role, creating easily the most appealing on-screen superhero of the decade. The rest of the acting is not as good with John Hurt and Jeffery Tambor more or less sleepwalking, though Selma Blair is decent. More great special effects and the action scenes are defiantly a step-up from “Blade II.” (Yea! No more obvious CGI!) The fact that this movie is as funny as it is really differentiates it
from its superhero contemporaries.

The climax is not as exciting as it should which is disappointing after all that build-up. The love triangle is also a completely unnecessary subplot and there are more pointless characters which I hope is something that doesn’t becomes one of the director’s trademarks. Speaking of which, this film features underground tunnels/mazes, clockwork machinery, and even manages to throw in a curious little kid, too, however briefly. [Grade: B+]

6. Pan's Labyrinth
A dark fairy tale is a phrase that is being a used a lot to describe this film. The film truly is a fairy tale but isn’t all that dark when compared to Hans Christian Anderson or Greek mythology, both of which were obvious influences.

The movie is pure del Toro. Its protagonist is a young girl who refuses to have her innocence corrupted by a world that is becoming increasingly darker but at the same time is not naive to those evils around her. An underground maze is pivotal to the plot as the title makes pretty clear. A pocket watch plays a minor role in the proceedings.

Ivana Baquence hits all the right notes as Ofelia, the lead, and Sergio Lopez, playing her fascist general step-father and the true villain of the piece, is very frightening. Like the best of classical fairy tales, the movie is whimsical, but isn’t afraid to be scary either. The Pale Man sequence is very intense. The director does it right here by including subplots and extra characters, but they actually add to the story proper instead of distracting from it. Also like a fairy tale, the film can be examined from many different levels and is certainly multi-layered. It’s a highly successful film, the best film of 2006 in fact, and might be the director’s masterpiece. [Grade: A]

7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Summer movie season is becoming increasingly crowded. It seems that from May to August, every week brings a new huge budgeted superhero movie that has to make a gazillion dollars that weekend to be consider a profit before next week’s huge budgeted superhero movie appears and pushes the last out of the top ten. It’s a shame when a genuinely interesting movie like “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” appears during such a summer.

Sadly, Hellboy’s latest outing seems somewhat pale in comparison to the summer’s many other offerings. Yes, there are big effect scenes. Sadly, only two of them, the forest elemental showdown and the battle with the title army, are really exciting. Yes, there are fight scenes. Sadly, compared to the kung-fu theatrics of every other blockbuster around, they don’t exactly warrant oohs or ahhs.

For once, though, none of that matters. “Hellboy II” is a hugely entertaining picture more because of its characters then anything else. Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy. Never before has there been a better combination of character and actor. The supporting cast is much stronger this time around. Selma Blair’s Liz has developed a lot since part one and, along with a new Lain-inspired hair-do, makes the character far more fresher and engrossing then before. All the dead weight has been dropped from the cast, Johan Strauss makes for an amusing addition, and Doug Jones is actually allowed to voice his character this time around. His character of Abe goes through a lot of developing too. The emotional resonance of the cast is important since love is the main motivating force in the story. It should be noted that a drunken warbling of a cheesy Barry Manilow song is probably the best moment of the movie.

The CGI effects are better then the first but probably won’t age well. No, it’s the practical creature effects that rule the day. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this many unique looking monsters and creatures, all created by animatronics and good-old fashion makeup, in a movie together. Del Toro brings his full imagination here and a lot of this can be summed up as “Hellboy Goes to Pan’s Labyrinth.”

So, the movie may not be as exciting as the latest Will Smith or Batman flick, but “Hellboy II” is funny, refreshing, fun, and possibly more over-all entertaining then anything else this summer.

[Grade: B+]

1 comment:

Kernunrex said...

Bored at work, Googling myself, I stumbled on your new blog. You should'a posted about in a comment on my blog or something! Bookmarked.

Friday the 13th: 3D is kind of a treat, with Jason shoving weapons directly at the audience and body parts flying in your face. It's a pain to be able to see, though: you need an interlaced TV (ie, not an LCD), a converter box with shutter glasses and a bootleg DVD.

Never heard of him -- I'll have check out Trent Harris (once I get some room in the old Netflix queue, of course).