“This is a truly dear, personal film,” says Guillermo del Toro on his characteristically dense, lively commentary, which delves into everything from colour palette choices to bits of the set he paid for himself.
And it’s that level of investment, both fiscal and emotional — del Toro cops to identifying with the big red lug on almost every level — that makes
this monster movie such a treat.
Ron Perlman’s demon-hero – chomping away on cigars and zingers – joins fiery girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and amphibious ally Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) to battle Luke Goss’ evil elfin prince, who aims to snuff out mankind with the aid of the titular clockwork army.
The latter is a nod to Ray Harryhausen, whose influence springboards del Toro’s imagination into overdrive. The writer / director has upped the weird-and-wonderful ante on the first Hellboy, filling his frame with magical creatures of every size and shape so that key sequences all require a rewind to comprehend fully their detail and depth.
Likewise, there’s more poetry and subtext than is typical for a comic-book movie, with themes of fertility, maturity and mortality laced throughout the slam-bang action set-pieces.
Throughout del Toro mentions his plans for a third film. If you buy this, we might actually get it.