Never Lets the Imagination Perish

Fantasy of a unique kind

Fantasy of a unique kind

Pan’s Labyrinth cemented Guillermo del Toro’s reputation as a magical and visionary filmmaker, the Oscar winning Spanish fantasy film about a girl who discovers a secret world beyond anyone’s imagination in the lush forest while escaping the brutality of the Spanish civil war. The Mexican born film-director Del Toro first attracted attention with his visionary look in Hellboy, released in 2004 starring a relatively unknown cast including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and the brilliant John Hurt. Hellboy featured a storyline about a Devil-shaped child born during World War II at the height of Nazi power in Europe.

As an adult, Hellboy is confined like most supernatural beings to the Centre for paranormal research in New Jersey, USA and is eventually called upon to combat the forces of darkness as unleashed by a Nazified leader who is part mutant part machine. Hellboy was a secret sensation at the box office and Del Toro would have liked to do a sequel but according to Hollywood legend the studios were initially reluctant to invest so much in a novice director’s wild imagination.

The Spanish language film, Pan’s Labyrinth, changed all that receiving a critical reception on the international film festival circuit from Cannes to Berlin and went on to win several Golden Globes and Oscar awards most notably for make-up and art direction. Now with studio financial backing, Del Toro was able to lavish his attention on Hellboy’s sequel the far superior and hugely fantastical follow-up, which is extremely rare even by Hollywood standards, for most sequels seldom eclipse the original film.

Meet the Golden Army... del Torro's imagination unleashed

Meet the Golden Army… del Torro’s imagination unleashed

Hellboy II: The Golden Army, for any fantasy fan, is a visual feast and a rare glimpse into one man’s extraordinary imagination so skilled and detailed as well as amplified and bold, as to make him a worthy rival of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hellboy, played with absolute relish by Ron Perlman is reunited with fire girl Liz Sherman played by a sexy Selma Blair and Doug Jones makes the most of a much larger role as Abe Sapien, the half-fish, half-man creature who unsuspectingly falls in love with the elf Princess Nuala as they all set out to defeat the Princesses evil twin brother Prince Nuada played by former pop star Luke Goss, who is wildly intent on unleashing the dormant potential of The Golden Army, creatures created by some seriously twisted trolls. The storyline which features a multitude of amazing creatures, most notably in the Troll market sequence and some equally lavish sets at the courts of the Elves, also is a pastiche of scenes from War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Star Wars trilogy, displaying not only Del Toro’s talent as a director but his vast visual and filmic repertoire.

So with all this fantasy, do the characters suffer at the indulgence of breathtaking special effects? Absolutely not. After an initial battle between Hellboy and some ungodly creations from evil tooth fairies to a ferocious fauna-hued monster, there are some solid character building scenes with loads of wit, smart references to the Romantic poetry of Tennyson to music by Vivaldi, while Del Toro allows some ironic allusions to contemporary visual society from the media to Youtube, from the ordinary unbeliever to those that hoard antiquities.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army is confidently rooted in the realms of fantasy and lavish fairytales and would most definitely appeal to anyone who cherishes the imaginative view of society as opposed to a strictly empirical and conventional world. More significantly, this film as I am sure the director believes, reaffirms the vital importance of our own imagination in a world which seems determine to vanquish any real originality.  Visionary, brilliant and thoroughly entertaining, I was equally fortunate to witness such an amazing and technically superior creation on the big screen, as like all great film’s its impact will surely diminish when scene on DVD. Never let your imagination perish and indulge in some spectacular fantasy…

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