Thoughts on “Hellboy II”

So I’m still pretty busy, and so it seems like a good week to turn back to that collection of science fiction movies and move on to the next one that I’ve seen but haven’t watched, which is “Hellboy II”.  Now, I had seen both “Hellboy” and Hellboy II” before, and had liked the first movie a lot better than the second one.  So I was only watching the movie for completeness, not because I was really interested in it or because it was a movie that I hadn’t seen before.  My opinion of it didn’t change on the re-watch, but I did get some insight into why I didn’t like it very much.

The main problem with it is that it marries light adventure with a very dark villain and even subplots.  Hellboy himself tends to be completely irreverent throughout his action scenes, making them light adventure like you’d see in, say, Indiana Jones.  There’s also a clearly humourous subplot between him and the head of his agency.  Moreover, the movie includes a lot of ridiculous situations, like the scientist/former villain who is put in charge at one point and a lot of the action scenes and situations.  So the movie and even the overall world isn’t all that serious and is a bit ridiculous, which works well for a light action-adventure based around a wisecracking demon.

However, what struck me this time is just how evil the villain is in this one.  The basic idea is that he was from a race of somewhat-elves that had created a Golden Army that could destroy everything, but it wasn’t used against the humans, and in the end the humans drove the elves to extinction.  The villain is one of the two surviving members of the Royal Family, and he has returned to exterminate humanity with the Golden Army.  If that goal wasn’t bad enough, he’s an absolutely brutal villain, constantly killing people in the most brutal way possible, in ways that seem excessively violent.  He doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, which makes his scenes a sharp contrast to how Hellboy normally fights, and it isn’t even usually the case that Hellboy can annoy him by not taking him as seriously as he takes himself.  He shows up, is brutal, and then leaves.  Yet at the end, it seems like we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him, given his relation to his sister — who is the love interest of Abe, a main character — and the ending.  But he was never given any sympathetic qualities nor was presented as someone who was clearly in the wrong but driven mad by rage and revenge.  He never repented at the end and despaired that he had brought his sister to her end (she had to be killed in order to kill him, since their lives were linked).  So he’s just a brutal antagonist that clashes horribly with Hellboy’s irreverence and the fairy tale nature of Abe and the anatognist’s sister and their love.

The subplots also delve into the excessively serious.  As noted above, we have the tragic love story between Abe and the Elf Princess, which could indeed work in a movie like this.  There’s also a subplot with Hellboy and his girlfriend who has become pregnant and doesn’t want to tell him, spawning ruminations on his nature and their relationship in general.  As noted, those sorts of ones are a bit more serious, but they could work to add a bit of drama and even tragedy to a lighter work.  Those sorts of things can work really well to add a bit of gravitas to a light adventure to make it more entertaining.  The problem here is that we’re already drowning in gravitas from the main plot and the villain, and so the other things just seem like piling on, things added in to provide drama that the movie didn’t really need.

Ultimately, the clash between the two is the problem with the movie.  Because much of it is light adventure, there’s a real clash between those scenes and the more serious and brutal ones.  The movie doesn’t do anything to merge the two together into a coherent movie.  Because it wants to do a lot of light adventure and jokes, there isn’t time to really set up all the drama and dramatic scenes that it is trying to do.  But the darker elements take us out of the mindset of mostly mindless humour.  The two of them simply do not work together, which makes for a very annoying movie.

As you might have guessed, I don’t have any interest in watching this movie again … again.

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