The first Hellboy movie was a good film. It had spectacular visuals, it had a good protagonist, it had cool villians, and it told a decent story.
It wasn’t great though. For all of the “good stuff” about it, there was something missing. I feel this way with all of Del Toro’s movies (although Pan’s Labirynth was the closest he’s come to having a complete film). There’s something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is that would take his stuff to the next level. That’s why the French call that certain something a “je ne sais quoi”.
The same is true with this movie. It was good, but it just wasn’t great. It’s a case of the sum of the parts not equaling up to the whole.
When I sit back and think about it, I loved a whole lot about the movie. Ron Perlman’s portrayal of Hellboy is spot on. Abe Sapien (now with Doug Jones’ actual voice), is great. Even the new character of Johann Krauss is great.
With that said, just like the first movie, this one’s entirely forgettable. The villain is kind of one-dimensional. The most memorable scene in the entire film is the Troll Market where Del Toro gets to play with all kinds of monsters, and even that’s kind of forgettable (and involves the dispatch of a villain who initially seems unstoppable).
The peril never seems real. It’s roller coaster / video game peril. It’s artificial, on rails, and the ending is telegraphed a mile away.
Take for example the James Cameronesque “Middle ending” where Hellboy fights a tree god, the last of it’s kind. There’s supposed to be doubt in Hellboy that he’s not doing the right thing, and he thinks on it for about three seconds before making his decision.
I’m all for shortening movies, I believe that if directors were merciless with their films we’d have way more super-tight, and as a result better, hour and a half long movies, instead of a lot of overwrought two and a half hour long movies that kind of suck.
With that said, Del Toro needs to relish some of his scenes a little more, instead of rushing from one amazing location and spectacular scene to the next, how about a little time to digest what we’re seeing? Maybe instead of having 12 incredible locations he could have 4? 3 even? Revisit them a couple of times in a movie.
Even Michael Bay realizes this. Fast shot, fast shot, fast shot, fast shot, fast shot, slooooooow tracking shot, wide shot, lingering pan shot, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand…scene established.
When Del Toro figures that last little piece of the puzzle out, his films will be not only visually incredible, but emotionally resonant as well.