Guillermo del Toro certainly has a knack for visual splendor and The Golden Army is no exception. The film opens with a by-the-book plot setup concerning the titular army, an indestructible force of nearly 5,000 to be commanded by whoever wears the golden crown. This golden crown is conveniently split into three separate parts, acting as a standard sequel plot device to propel the film along – but what propulsion.
Ron Perlman is back in the role he was born for as the tough-talking Hellboy, a demon with a soft spot for kittens, alongside Liz Sherman (a commanding Selma Blair) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). This core trio still has the same fun on-screen chemistry as they did in the original but almost everything in The Golden Army takes a backseat to del Toro’s spirited direction and storytelling. There’s such an infectious enthusiasm to the man’s work and his creative mind is an extravagant bonus. Although entirely different directors del Toro’s work often reminds me of Tim Burton in that both men have a penchant for the fantastic and the bizarre. Within this Hellboy-verse del Toro is given the budget to match his imagination with realization and the result is pure visual splendor. From monster-infested black markets to intricately detailed Elvish strongholds, The Golden Army is a stunning world.
Indeed, strong story does seem somewhat sidelined this second time around, as the film’s plot and villain leave much to be desired. Although Luke Goss brings a palpable menace and intimidation to the role his antagonist Nuada is a character we’ve all seen before. Furthermore certain plot twists are telegraphed from the very beginning and contrivances pop up here and there. Even more shocking is that none of that seems to matter.
By the end of the film I was having such a fun time I didn’t care. Del Toro proves here that exuberance and a love of craft trump intriguing story. Hellboy and Liz bring enough character moments to add gravitas between each wonderfully staged action set piece. Hellboy II: The Golden Army is all about the ride through this wild universe where taxicabs and Godzilla plant monsters collide and del Toro realizes it all with fervor and style.