Hellboy II (2008)

I have mixed emotions about this film. On one hand, I love the costumes and characters that Guillermo del Toro creates for his films. Pan’s Labyrinth was also great in terms of that.  What I’m struggling with in terms of Hellboy II is the fact that there are many aspects of the film that have been more-than-just-slightly appropriated from at least two other epic stories: The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.  I’ll explain my reasoning (which has not been tainted by the outside world, by the way):

In terms of The Lord of the Rings connection, you have the very obvious “ring” metaphor, which in Hellboy II is the three-part “crown” that was created to reign supreme over the Golden Army of mechanical, indestructable monsters.  The three parts were divided up: two to the Elf King’s two children, and one to the Men.  I mean, come on Mr. del Toro, don’t you know we’ve already seen this trope and it has been cemented in our subconscious by Peter Jackson (not to mention J.R.R. Tolkein)?!  Also, in Hellboy II, the animated sequence with the wooden-looking Men versus the Elf King and Trolls was creative in terms of its aesthetics, but it was just a retooled LOTR, even down to Sauromon’s “making” of the Orc Army.  In Hellboy II, the subterranean Golden Army factory was exactly the same as what we saw in LOTR.  And the Elves & Trolls vs. Man thing…c’mon?!  I just don’t get why del Toro did this.  It really brought the overall quality of the film down.

And, is it generally recognized everywhere that all Elves have long blonde hair, or was that del Toro just riding piggyback some more.

In terms of Star Wars, del Toro re-used a few tropes: Liz Sherman’s pregnancy & Hellboy’s destiny.  Liz’s pregnancy is a secret to Hellboy for most of the film. And, when we get to the final scene of the film, as they’re all walking away, Hellboy says something about the “baby” and Liz says, “babies.” Hellboy turns around and she flashes two fingers up and mimes “two,” then the film ends on Hellboy’s stunned face.  So what does this have to do with Star Wars, you say?!  Only everything!!!  Padme ushers in the twins, Luke & Leah, in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, and their destinies are all tied to the fate of the universe (as we all know from watching all of the films).    So, like Padme, Liz Sherman’s twins will no doubt have an effect on the fate of the world, especially because of the information she receives about Hellboy’s destiny, via  “The Angel of Death,” who heals Hellboy’s wound so he can live to eventually destroy the world….???  That screams the Anakin-Darth-Vader-destiny-trope to me, loud and clear. As the Angel of Death was telling Liz about Hellboy’s destiny, and how she would suffer the most, I couldn’t help but think of Padme laying on the table dying after giving birth to Luke & Leah, while Anakin was out on the burning plain, dismembered and prostrate, primed for his destiny, anger palpable and growing exponentially after being defeated by Obi Wan.

The last thing I’ll say about this film is that there were loopholes in the plot and dialogue that do not explain why the Elves & Trolls are living under Manhattan, especially when the secret hideout for the Golden Army is in Ireland.  I just don’t get why del Toro places this mythical world under NYC.  And it certainly isn’t explained for the viewer.  At least that part is original: I doubt anyone would believe the locations for Star Wars or LOTR were ever in Manhattan. Despite that originality, it still leaves the viewer wondering:  why?!  

I’m just saying that Hellboy II, despite its very funny moments and decent cinematography, was a re-rendering of other films.  I’m not saying it was a bad film. It was okay. I just wish we could get a good action-superhero film with great costumes and interesting characters, that was at least not a near-exact duplication of other films we’ve already seen.  Can’t we watch films like this and not feel like the director takes us for mindless Trolls?

2 thoughts on “Hellboy II (2008)

  1. I think part of the problem is that the movies are based on a series of comic books, and a cartoon, and a lot of those tropes pop up in many different comic books. After all, there are only so many stories to go around.

    One of the other problems with translating Hellboy to the screen is that the comics are very political, with Communists and Nazi-style fascists everywhere, and I don’t think this is quite as palatable to today’s audience…especially since 14-year-old boys are too young to know about the Cold War. The Golden Army, by the way, is meant to stand in for Nazis, rather than the Star Wars Clones.

    The three-part crown can also be associated with the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost, not Larry, Moe and Curly), which is probably closer to the intended story, since comic book storylines are frequently based on biblical tropes and/or Greek and Roman legends. Although the Holy Trinity doesn’t unite to awaken the Nazi horde. I think if you look at the Angel of Death scene in terms of resurrection stories, that seems more intended comparison (since the Bible came first). Just another direction to take you in!

    And why are they in Manhattan? Well, I think it would be a hell of a lot easier for a legion of weirdos to blend in there than in Ireland!

  2. Okay, well, I suppose that makes sense, but don’t you think del Toro should at least attempt to not have scenes look almost exactly like LOTR or SW? Then again, perhaps he isn’t trying to impress the non-comic reader-viewer, which is what I am. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

    And you bring up something (with the Trinity thing) I entirely forgot to mention: the dominance of crucifixes throughout the film. Liz is wearing one around her neck. And there’s a scene when Hellboy’s in the middle of the street (I believe it was the Forest God scene) and there’s a HUGE, glowing cross (fluorescent sign) hanging up on the corner of a building, in a position right above Hellboy’s right shoulder. So clearly the Christian God exists in this world, or “Hell”boy wouldn’t be named as he is, etc. Though, del Toro doesn’t actually have characters mention God at all in the film. Perhaps, due to the film’s leaving-out of the Nazi and Communist tropes from the comics/cartoons, del Toro is focused more on making a blockbuster than he is making something nearly-original.

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