Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Debate gay marriage with a dumb bigot (hey it’s one of my favourite past-times) and the bigot will often argue that if you let a man marry another man, you might as well let a man marry an animal. There is a moment in Hellboy II where you realise that Guillermo Del Toro is saying, well why the hell not let man marry an animal? Because that is essentially what the romance between Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) is. Now I’m not arguing that Hellboy II is all about bestiality but the sentiment is really indicative of just how much Del Toro believes in the virtues of championing the strange, the non-conformist, the realm of the imagination.

In a sense, though it is not obviously apparent, Hellboy II actually builds on the anti-fascist themes of Pan’s Labyrinth but moves from the obvious fascism of Franco’s Spain to address the microfascisms that exist still in contemporary society (albeit in a subtextual manner). Romantic relationships play a big part in this sequel – between the pyrokinetic human Liz and the red devil Hellboy, between the fish-like Abe Sapien and the elf Princess Nuala. The film even alludes to a past romance of the new character Johann Krauss who is literally a cloud of gas. Given these wonderfully radical relationships it’s quite easy to bring a queer reading to the film.

This is an uneven film. Some of the dialogue is quite clunky and a few pop music queues seem ill-advised (I am not talking about the use of Barry Manilow’s ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ which is brilliant). However I’m less inclined to call these faults but idiosyncrasies. If the film does something stylistically which seems a bit strange, isn’t that only part of the film’s charm? If you don’t buy that argument it’s really quite hard to argue with the quality of the monsters that Del Toro has created for the scene. Every blogger has cited the Troll Market as a major highlight of the film and they are absolutely right. Each shot is filled with fantastic, unique, grotesque monsters which it is almost impossible to keep track of. My favourite monster was the elemental – a giant tentacled plant creature that Hellboy battles in the streets of New York. The brilliance of this scene is the dilemma it poses for Hellboy. The elemental he battles is the last of its species and to kill it is to extinguish something profoundly beautiful but destructive. The end of the battle gives Del Toro an opportunity for a quiet moment reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke in which New York sprouts into flower. It’s a special moment which begs the question: is maintaining order worth destroying that which is beautiful? Maybe the world needs a little chaos.


  • Be Kind Rewind, Michel Gondry, 2008.
    Another film celebrating the unique and whimsical against the powers of homogenisation.

    Also check out the ‘sweded’ version of the trailer by Gondry himself:
  • Otto; or, Up With Dead People, Bruce LaBruce, 2008.
    Otto is a bizarre frankenstein monster of a movie: part zombie film, part comedy, part social critique, part gay porn. It shares with Hellboy a love of monsters, misfits and revolutionary love but is made on a fraction of the budget. Strictly for the adventurous movie goer.

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