Monday, July 14, 2008

Hellboy II Pseudo-Review

The Star Wars movies are essentially composed of the following:

1 Fight Scenes
2 Clumsy Romance
3 High-Speed Chases
4 Questionable Acting/Writing
5 Freak Shows
6 Talk of Destiny

Hellboy II unproves on this formula by replacing "high-speed chases" with "relatively-low-speed chases". This isn't to say that Hellboy II is a Star Wars movie, but the comparison was impossible to avoid because it's not very inaccurate.

From the top.

Fight Scenes - there are a lot of them. Essentially, the movie would be about 14 minutes long if all the action was removed, and those 14 minutes would consist almost entirely of Howdy Doody and karaoke. The fights are pretty cool in general, but the number of them make this very much an action movie. No time for charming character moments, no time for build-up or anticipation, no time for much of anything besides killing monsters into pieces.

The original Hellboy, I thought, struck a pretty good balance between action and inaction. There was time for things to happen, and there was time to reflect and exhale and nurture a buddy-movie and an "I like you because you're different like me" romance all while gradually bringing the main story to its climax.

Even Star Wars showed a few minutes of briefing before the Death Star battle to give it some weight. Hellboy II would have played a 5 second sound byte explaining what the objective was as the pilots were already fighting. And there would be no fewer than 2 Death Stars.

Clumsy Romance - The original movie's romance was awkward because its male hero was awkward. To be sure, this film's lover is awkward as a character too, but the real problem is that this film keeps most of his exchanges with his beloved on a telepathic level, hidden from the audience. If the fight sequences followed the same laws as the romance subplot, both combatants would begin with a lingering high-five that would allow them to decide the outcome of the fight without actually showing us anything. We'd just have to take their word that the fight was amazing.

Relatively-Low-Speed Chases - Maybe a subset of the fight scene in that they occur in between them. Not much else to say. People run after each other and they're not in speeder bikes or pod racers.

Questionable Acting/Writing - If Jeffrey Tambor ad-libbed all his lines, then he needs to be more closely scripted, and if he was following a script then god help us. Also, Ron Perlman needs a new fake laugh along with more/better rapport with his enemies. The sense of humor from the first movie was all but absent in this film, and although the acting wasn't perfect in either film, only the second contained scenes that made me want to look away because I was taught not to stare at people who are embarrassing themselves.

Freak Shows - You know when Luke and Obi-Wan enter the cantina and Lucas shows us around the bar so we get a chance to appreciate all the crazy masks ILM made? Not necessarily a bad thing, but when the movie is short on time because of all the fighting, it doesn't make a lot of sense to blow so much footage on a troll market that appears on film more like the Disney Land ride version of a troll market. On the plus side, a lot of the monster designs are pretty rad, and I do dig the freaks that come out of del Toro movies, and some of the freaks even move the plot along rather than drag it to a near halt, but this movie's cantina scene is rather weak.

Talk of Destiny - This is actually a hook that makes me enjoy Hellboy. The nature/nurture experiment that's going on is something I like to see, so I was rather disappointed when it was relegated to a couple of quips (including a god-damned "we are not so different, you and I" from the villain) and a monologue.

In short, Hellboy II spent so much time fighting and looking at monsters that it all but discarded everything that made the first movie funny or charming or interesting. I honestly don't care if I ever see Hellboy II again.


Roscoe said...

I didn't get the chance to see it this weekend, as parents seem to have an identity theft issue on their hands.

But there's something very.. interesting going on with Hellboy reviews.

Namely no two people seem to agree on what was good or bad about it.

Mikey held up Tambor as one of the good points.. Kyle said it was good.. some reviews say it's outright terrible...

clearly I need to see it, if only to get my "Constantine" style but-that's-not-right on...


Roscoe said...

Admittedly, I'm also on high defensive alert, what with J's nonsense about the topic earlier.

so I'm trying to step back.. but. the promo psas across the NBC networks have been wonderful.

As have the Direct to Video cartoons... which use the same cast.

I dunno. Lot of hope, lot of glee with the topic material. You raise some strong criticisms of the movie, though.. grounded ones.


kylebrown said...

I don't mind the fact that the movie is action oriented. It is done well and progresses the plot accordingly. I, too, was a little disappointed in the lack of progression on the destiny side, but I still enjoyed the story being told. The only acting that I found to be awful was by the kid cast as young Hellboy. As far as I'm concerned, the rest of the cast did pretty well.

_J_ said...

"the promo psas across the NBC networks have been wonderful"

I know I judge movies by the NBC Network PSAS which result from them. But I don't think others are equipped to utilize side material as a replacement for the main dish, as it were.

One of the reviews I read for Hellboy 2 said, and I'm not quoting word for word here, "The great part about sequels is that they can do away with the exposition of the first movie and jump right into the action."

Which set off one of the patented "SHIT!" alarms in my brain.

Hellboy was on FX again this weekend and I watched it again just to see if I made any mistakes. I did not. When I combine that with what Adam said I'm left with an overall distaste for Hellboy and its middling crapfest mix of "super rubber costume" tomfoolery and "punchfest".

That being said I liked the review method of comparing a thing to Star Wars.

My guess is that Hellboy one created two Hellboy audiences: one that wants to watch people in rubber costumes fight CG monsters and another that wants to see a retelling of all those other stories through Del Toro's apoplectic style.

From the sound of Adam's review, the other reviews i've read, and my ability to assess a thing without experiencing it? I'm betting that Hellboy 2 is for the "rubber costume punchfest" crowd.

Which makes me really question their policy of not providing audiences with Natural Light and those big foam hands with 'Hellboy" inscribed upon them.

Roscoe said...

okay.. I'm talking PSAs becuase they hold pretty much ALL the same humor as the first flick. Not judging the movie, as I said, I've not SEEN it. But in terms of basing my initial hopes? Taht seems reasonable.

the Review quote? Reasonably astute, and not definitively a precursor to SHIT. You don't need to recap an orgin and explain everything in every film, which I'm sure is what the reviewer is talking about. Does it lead to a potential pitfall? Yes, but it's not the dire comment you expect it to be.

Honestly? I'm looking forward to watching it for the humor. Not the fights, though they will ought to reasonably be vehicles FOR the humor, just as in the first film and series. (Hellboy shoutng BOOM as he.. you know.. shoots a big gun)

But.. I honestly.. HONESTLY have issues with your Hellboy on FX is bad. It's probably the best comicbook movie, short of Iron Man. And I'd put it right up there WITH Iron Man.

Roscoe said...

The destiny thing that Adam and Kyle both mention is.. neat..

because in the comics, Mignola specfically divorced Hellboy from the BPRD to avoid his "destiny" stuff from overshadowing them.

Hellboy is looking into his past in a series of minis now, and not really making huge progress on it... so.. the non-resolution/progress.. amusingly to me.. fits.

_J_ said...

"because in the comics, Mignola specfically divorced Hellboy from the BPRD to avoid his "destiny" stuff from overshadowing them."

That could be the problem.

Hellboy is not for me. What I find to be the most compelling aspect of the overall story is the notion of a demonic being fighting evil yet the understanding that said demonic being is in some way related to the apocalypse. That is compelling and interesting. That's grasping with the duality of a character as a force of good despite its being fundamentally a force of evil. That internal struggle is the interesting and compelling component of Hellboy.

But that story, the interesting story, appears to be secondary to yet another vehicle by which a fictional secret government organization can explore the occult and various bits of mythology. You know what? We have enough secret government organization bullshit. And those other sources do it far better than Hellboy.

Your comment of "looking forward to watching it for the humor" irks me because, of all the things one could do with Hellboy? Humor is the most idiotically simple thing one could do. Using a Hellboy movie as little more than a vehicle for jokes? GAH! What a waste. Having people in rubber costumes beat on one another is the most mundane, obvious thing a director could do with Hellboy. It's not a good movie. It's not a good story. It's just profit generating crap with Nazis.

To go off on a tangent, that shit is why I really want to see Dark Knight. Batman Begins was pretentious and silly, we're all agreed on that. But Dark Knight? Dark Knight gives us the Joker as not some jack Nicholson/Robin Williams esque crap. It does something unique with the character which has not been seen in past movies, the cartoons, some significant percent of the comics. It tells a story foremost and generates profit as an afterthought.

Heath Ledger's joker is compelling, interesting, unique and entertaining in its being those things. Del Toro's Hellboy, hell, even Hellboy as an overall work, is just a waste. Where Heath Ledger takes the joker in a unique direction and really commits himself to portraying that character honestly and fully Hellboy is just a mornic amalgamation of pop-culture crap.

That's my deal. Heath Ledger's Joker does something new and unique where Hellboy is just...blah.

Roscoe said...


Goddamnit, Jay. Why do you have to be so fundamentally wrong the one summer I leave all my trades in storage?

They aren't even a secret government agency in the story. The movies, sure.. but.. not the story..

Are you SHITTING me with the Humor is the easiest thing one can do? Really?? Would you care to be treated to a Fill-In-The-Blank Movie marathon? Humor's not only the HARD thing to do, it's the thing that's in CHARACTER for the entire thing. It's what GIVES the thing it's character. Without humor, it's not Hellboy.

Oh, my God, you did NOT just say that Dark Knight gives us something with the Joker that's not been done before in the comics and cartoons? Did you pay attention to the Mark Hamil Joker, throughout B:TAS and JL?

Jay? Right now? You're pulling the same mistake that my stupid-assed "Comic Book Character" text made. You're assuming that becuase you've not seen it, it doesn't exist. You're claiming your understanding, drawn from a cursory glance at the material, is a canon understanding.

Ledger's Joker does NOTHING new and unique, unless it's NBC Must See TV style "if you haven't seen it, it's new to you"

Hellboy's jokes aren't pop culture jokes in the least. If they were? They'd be Blank-Movie jokes.
Similarly, Ledger's Joker is not a never before seen portrayal, it's a product of the script and context, derived from the comics continual reinterpretation of the Joker.

Dark Knight is going to be RIFE with the same issues as Batman Begins. RIFE. And it will still be good, despite it's flaws. Holding Ledger up as an example of something that Perlman should ascribe to is asinine, as both achieve the demands of the script - Portrayal of the core elements of the character.

Your issue is with script and story, leave the actors out of it.

For that matter, leave the AUTHORS out of it, if you can't actually talk about the material.

Stick to the movie, if it's the movie you've seen. Don't lob insults willy-nilly at whatever targets you want.

_J_ said...

"you did NOT just say that Dark Knight gives us something with the Joker that's not been done before in the comics and cartoons?"


"It does something unique with the character which has not been seen in past movies, the cartoons, some significant percent of the comics."

I'm pretty sure the Joker never stabbed someone in the neck with a pencil just to watch him die in the cartoons. The cartoons were never dark and psychotic. He was just bouncing around like a moron.

Unless you have some unique, odd interpretation of that episode where that guy opened a Joker casino and Joker tried to kill batman by strapping him to a roulette wheel.

Roscoe said...

Did you WATCH Batman Beyond's Return of the Joker?

Hell, Joker killed people ALL the time in the cartoon. Generally his own lackies, but killed them just for amusement.

You're either unaware of the prior existence of such things, or you're mentally discounting them because they don't fit with your argument or interpretation of the cartoon.

I mean.. The same things about Ledger were said about Nichleson in the '89. And looking back, he came out as a scenery chewing fool. But at the time? It looked like something no one had seen before. Of course, the comics had all sorts of darker images of the Joker.. Far more than the simplistic 60's Ceasar Romero.

But you discount Jack because he WAS scenery chewing, and could be easily ignored as an over the top bouncing mad Joker..

Do you get what I'm trying to say here? You're wildly off the mark on both of these, becuase they're not what you WANT them to be, nor are they what you want them to be, for you to Criticise them....