Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'Tis)

Starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Jeffrey Tambor. Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Running Time: 119 mins
Rated: Rated M (fantasy violence)
Mexican director, Guillermo del Toro, must love the Hellboy comics. Not only did he write and direct the very successful and imaginative Hellboy in 2004, he has written and directed this sequel and, as with all his films, especially the Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth, has imagined the extraordinary and sumptuous fantasy locations and creatures that abound here. Visually, Hellboy II is a treat.

Taking for granted the detail in the original Hellboy about how the young lad came to Earth during World War II and was saved by the Allies from being a creature of destruction, the film opens in 1955 with a pleasing interlude where John Hurt as the adolescent boy's father-figure (who has to struggle with Hellboy's penchant for watching junk television) tells him a fable that is the basis of what is to follow.

In a secret kingdom, gold clone warriors are made by the ambitious king. However, out of control, they massacre their enemies. The king sequesters them but his ambitious son (Luke Goss) needs the missing part of the royal crown to bring the army alive again. When the crown is up for auction in modern-day New York, the prince strikes, using a monstrous creature to destroy all in his path. But, Hellboy (Ron Perlman recreating his role) lives in New York where (a bit like Hancock), people and the media misunderstand his actions to save them. Hellboy's partner Liz who can burst into flames (Selma Blair again) is having domestic difficulties and is fighting with him.

In the meantime, Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is trying to keep a lid on the experiments going on, especially with Abe Sapien, the Merman (Doug Jones). No such luck as Prince Nuada keeps attacking after killing his father. However, his twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton), is on the side of good and Abe Sapien falls for her (and, at one stage, with Hellboy lamenting his fights with Liz, they sing along with Barry Manilow to 'Can't Live without You'!).

There are all kinds of breathtaking feats, including Hellboy, holding on to a baby he has rescued, confronting a monstrous tree demon as he scales the buildings in Times Square, an underground market of mutants and the caverns under New York where the Golden Army is revived and goes into battle).

While there are some similarities with the now familiar screen heroes like Spiderman and Iron Man. Del Toro's visual imagination makes the Hellboy films quite different from the others.

Paramount Out August 28

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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