HELLBOY: The Golden Movie

30 07 2008
Warning: Avoid this movie like the plague if you cannot tolerate Barry Manilow (ask no questions).
Guillermo del Toro is an artist who has read a poem or two, and who therefore understands what vision can be and how to shape a dramatic moment with just the right weight. His penchant is for the stunning and touching vista, pause, expression, landscape, and scene, and not particularly for the pulsing (and overloud) movement that characterizes so much action film these days–and almost all film made from comic book themes, like this one. HELLBOY: THE GOLDEN ARMY is a film to be seen and relished, like a grande bouffe, often hilarious, sometimes provocative, sometimes deeply saddening in the way that Elgar’s First Symphony is. The color effects (by Guillermo Navarro) are remarkable for their saturation and splendor, and the sound has been meticulously sculpted in every layer (by 35 people, led by Martín Hernández) to be sumptuous, even regal. More wizened and strangely decaying character types, as in PAN’S LABYRINTH (3 of them played here by the dancing Doug Jones), but even more bizarre; and a script one has to listen to.

There are some strong and meaningful references: to LOST HORIZON, of all films; to STAR WARS; to COME BLOW YOUR HORN; to THE NEVERENDING STORY. But what is remarkable about this film–and about Del Toro’s work in general–is the sense of moderation and balance, the categorical refusal to pander to an undisciplined impulse toward loudness or vitiating violence, the vision of the mythical spirit in human life and its imperiled status now.

Del Toro would have made the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy not only watchable but important. He may do this with THE HOBBIT.

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