Hellboy II: The Golden Army is in many ways better than its predecessor. The action in this Hellboy film is better orchestrated, the structure is tighter, and the emotional element is more palpable.
The plot of Hellboy II: The Golden Army is simple. The protagonists must stop an ancient race that lives on our world in secret from unleashing mechanized machines known as The Golden Army and killing humanity. The first line of defense against this threat is the clandestine Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) and its divergent cadre of worker bees.
The old gang from Hellboy I returns: Hellboy a.k.a. Anung Un Rama (Ron Perlman), Elizabeth “Liz” Sherman (Selma Blair), Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor), and Abraham “Abe” Sapien (Doug Jones), though Abe is now voiced by Doug Jones as well. The viewer might not be amiable to this, not that Jones doesn’t do a good job. They’ll just notice that it’s not David Hyde Pierce doing Abe’s voice acting this time around.
The finest new element in this film to the Hellboy franchise is Dr. Johann Krauss (Seth MacFarlane). Dr. Krauss is a cool character to watch, intelligent and a good foil to Abe and emotion-driven Hellboy. Krauss is led by science and logic and is able to control his emotions better than any other member of the team. He is able to achieve this, in part, because he has been without a physical body for an indeterminate amount of time.
There are not many subplots in Hellboy II: The Golden Army but the two that are present work for the overall quality of the movie and not against it. One of the subplots involves Hellboy and the outside world. Hellboy is tried of living in the shadows away from a public he puts his life on the line to protect. He wants to live a life outside of the confines of the BPRD, be accepted by society, and enjoy the freedoms humans are granted at birth.
The elfin antagonist in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Prince Nuada “Silverlance” (Luke Goss), is not a heartless, cold, and morally-adverse killer, a hackneyed ingredient in many action films. Nuada speaks and carries himself as the royalty he is and has a point of view of the world and its inhabitants. Nuada would start a war, utilizing The Golden Army, not to rule humanity but to preserve his people and the rapidly disappearing ecosystem of the planet. He has an honorable cause for his actions, even when those actions are terrible or even monstrous.
The only characters given any development from the last Hellboy film are Hellboy and Abe. Hellboy is developed minutely through an unexpected and well done flashback at the beginning of the film. Abe is developed to a greater extent through a burgeoning emotional attachment and physical attraction to Prince Nuada’s sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton).
Most of the elements from Hellboy I that did not work are not present in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, including the entry, bridge character Agent John Myers (Rupert Evans). Also not present is the questionable wire-work and elongated ending from the first Hellboy film. This film is definitely less indulgent than its predecessor.
One plot element in Hellboy II: The Golden Army that the viewer may miss if not watchful is the incestuous relationship between Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala. It’s only hinted at briefly but does implant thoughts to the extent of their “closeness” far more subtly than the similar relationship found in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Also of note in Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the Troll Market, which is full of interesting characters (i.e. the tumor baby), the Goblin master builder (Tim Larcen), the giant forest elemental, and the beautifully conceived Angel of Death (Doug Jones) with dark tidings for the future.
Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army is one of the better comic book movies created for the silver screen. It takes the good parts from the original film and adds to them in constructive ways that work.