|'The troll market, where each character was designed by a different artist, shows the film off, presenting a grotty cove of innovative delights, festering under dimmed lighting'|
Maybe Hellboy needed Rupert Evans' John Myers character to pull us through the narrative and maybe it didn't but either way, the net result was that Myers was too much of a distraction, the focus pulling too far towards him when we should have been enjoying spending time with Ron Perlman's horned hero.
In the vastly superior Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, director Guillermo del Toro makes short work of dispatching Myers to some outpost far away from the action, never bothering to replace him, although, arguably, Jeffrey Tambor's returning overseer does roughly the same humanising job.
Without Myers, the film, and Perlman, benefit. Focus firmly on the star, Hellboy 2 delivers on the promise of the first movie. Del Toro presides over a fast-moving, punchy, collection of thrills and character design, a comic book film keen to embrace the fantasy side of its narrative, willing to be both dark and day-glo at the same time.
Part of the reason Hellboy 2 still feels like a worthy watch, with much to add to the genre, is this mixture of visuals and del Toro's desire to preserve the source material's influences, whilst fitting the film contextually with current audience trends. The troll market, where each character was designed by a different artist, shows this off, presenting a grotty cove of innovative delights, festering under dimmed lighting and punctuated with the humour the director also does well to maintain.
The final transposition to Ireland is perhaps one jump too many and Hellboy 2 never repeats the claustrophobic chills of the opening in the desolate auction house. Set pieces too are hit and miss. The climax with The Golden Army is an immense triumph of the franchise's steampunk values and del Toro's action nous, whilst the street battle with the Elemental feels flawed, forced and from a different film all together.
Compare and contrast with the original though and this is streets ahead, with Perlman a magnificent monster, and a tremendously funny drunk.