By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
Rent or buy Hellboy II: The Golden Army here.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. 2004's Hellboy was mostly a dull, plodding movie. Every once and a while there were flashes of potential from the creative team: a crackling one-liner, an iconic image, a piece of hard-hitting action, a great character moment. But on the whole, the whole thing felt watered-down, forced, and a waste of talent. Rumor has it that studio suits interfered, as they're wont to do, with the creative vision of the director. But that director was Guillermo Del Toro, whose next film, the visionary Pan's Labrynth, won three Academy Awards, received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and got a whopping 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This time, the studio suits politely stood out of his way.
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is at once an altogether superior sequel as well as a highly entertaining standalone adventure movie. The characters are terrific, the action sequences genuinely thrilling, the comedy hits the mark (it rarely did in the first film), and the visual design is at times among the most original and unique of anything I've ever seen. Go see this movie to enjoy the craft of a great director on the rise. You don't have to have seen the first film to enjoy this one.
For me, this is on par with Iron Man as the summer's best action entertainment so far (The Dark Knight, of course, soon cometh). While no character in this shines as brightly as Robert Downey Jr's ultra-cool Tony Stark, the ensemble here is better, the action is just as good, and the creativity and visual imagery are terrific. When I saw the first Hellboy I didn't care if the series continued; having seen it's brawny, spunky, and imaginative sequel, I cannot wait for another installment. **** (out of five) Rated PG-13 for creepy images, action violence.