As unique as the original Hellboy looked, there definitely was something missing. Guillermo Del Toro's comic book movie had its moments and visually did the trick but it wasn't quite as fun and entertaining as it could have been.
Good thing we got Hellboy II: The Golden Army soon after!
Here's a sequel which takes everything you enjoyed about the first film, keeps it, and proudly throws away most of the stuff you didn't care for. This time, we've got a more epic plot involving a dude from a mythical world who is one of the last of his kind and who is planning to revive some army of gold robots in order to take over humanity. Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and co, of course, are hired to stop him but things have become somewhat more complicated since our unlikely hero revealed himself and the others to everyone in town. A lot happens in this movie: we go to some troll-filled realm where they all meet the Angel Of Death, Hellboy battles a giant forest God in the middle of the city while swinging around a live baby, Abe the fish dude falls in love (and sings about it) and Hellboy's fiery gal Liz (a moody Selma Blair) becomes pregnant, ending the movie on a playful wink.
Not only that but this is very much a Guillermo Del Toro extravaganza, far more so than the first film was. You really felt like the budget was limited in the first Hellboy and that Del Toro could really only afford a couple of main action sequences, hence the slightly dull second act. Whereas here, you get to see a whole range of crazy-looking creatures very much in the vein of those creepy, nightmarish Pan's Labyrinth ghouls. The puppetry, creature designs and practical effects in general here are impressive and merge together with the cartoonish CGI much better than they did in the first flick. Danny Elfman also offers a thrilling score for the film, which is always a plus.
90% of the cast is back with Jeffrey Tambor desperately trying to contain our heroes as ever and even John Hurt popping up in the beginning for a cameo. Speaking of which, I could have done without seeing a 10-year old Hellboy which, it turns out, looks creepy as... well, hell. Doug Jones is, of course, back as Abe but he also plays a couple of other larger-than-life characters and actually voices Abe this time, which means that David Hyde Pierce is out unfortunately. A welcome new addition to the gang is Johann Krauss, an odd little German dude literally made of gas and walking around in a metal suit: he is voiced by none other than Seth MacFarlane and proves to be a really fun, worthy new character.
Hellboy II still has its occasional dumb moment, of course, like when Liz inexplicably doesn't use her fire power until later on in the scene after every human being has died a horrible death or when the film gets overly jokey or slightly convoluted in places. Could have done without the sing along, frankly. Luckily, those moments never kill the movie at all and it remains tons of fun from start to finish. You never know where Del Toro will take you next but it's always a nice surprise. Plus, I should point out that Hellboy II is far gorier and crueller than Hellboy: people get their faces sucked out by mini demon insects Lifeforce-style, trolls get crushed alive, stuff like that. How this movie got a PG-13 rating I'll never know.
Overall, here's a prime example of how to do a comic book movie sequel right: Hellboy II is bigger, brighter yet darker, more entertaining, funnier, crazier and altogether more rewarding. It never takes itself too seriously but it still delivers some beautifully crafted, creative visuals and loads of badass action sequences.
A hell of a lot of fun.