One of the best moments in Hellboy II: The Golden Army occurs when Hellboy and Abe Sapien walk up to a little old lady, burnishing a canary towards her, prompting her to open up a door to allow them into the Troll Market. The scene itself it laced with humor, a sense of weird paranormal happenings and quite a bit of fun. The scene ends when Hellboy punches the lady (who's really a troll), and the audience knows right then and there that the movie isn't a serious affair, but something that the director and cast clearly had quite a bit of fun with.
The film, which follows up 2004's Hellboy, is an adaptation of Mike Mignola's comic book by the same name. Like the first film, it plays off of some of the stories, but is creatively seperate from the books. In this regard, director Guillermo del Toro is possibly one of the best directors to take on the franchise, and brings his own vision to the screen.
I've been a fan of the comics, particularly because of Mignola's unique artwork and the rich gothic and paranormal elements to the issues that I've read. It's a very fun comic, and one that has a lot of depth and meaning to it. The first film was a decent adaptation of the films, but by far, Hellboy 2 feels more at home in the world that Hellboy and the BPRD team inhabits.
For all intents and purposes, Hellboy: The Golden Army could be Hellboy: BPRD, for most of the team from that particular line of comics is present: Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien and Johann Kraus, who investigate an event at an auction house, which brings them into a plot orchestrated by Prince Nuada, who seeks war against humanity. He intends to reactivate the 'Golden Army', a race of mechanical warriors that had been stood down before. Hellboy and BPRD travel around, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Ireland.
There's some truly great moments here in this story. The Troll Market hidden under the Brooklyn Bridge far surpasses any of the magical and fantastic that's been seen in Harry Potter or similar films, and recalls del Toro's prior film, Pan's Labyrinth, with it's subtle elements. Ever since watching that film, I've been enamored of his vision of the world, and he's really the perfect person to take Mignola's own work to the screen.
Visually, the film is quite a bit of fun, although at points, I felt that the story was a bit lacking. The narrative gets off the rails for some of the character moments, and at points, the film doesn't know what it really wants to be about: Hellboy's own relationship with Liz Sherman, his out of place nature with the world and his own destiny and the story at hand. Between the three, the story feels somewhat stretched, especially as some of the same ground has been covered already in the first Hellboy film.
The only other thing that really bothered me was Johann Klaus. He's a very interesting character from the BPRD side of the house, but in those comics, he's really a consultant, not the leader that we see in the film. His character, coupled with a suit that was just a little too dynamic (hissing vents, really?), fell largely flat, given my expectations from the comics. Still, this is an adaptation, and as such, I'm not expecting the entire thing to be exactly like the comics.
Still, the film is quite a bit of fun, and a worthy addition that leaves the story somewhat following what's happened in the comic books (to my knowledge - I'm not overly familiar with the entire storyline - something that I'm looking to correct.) It'll be interesting to see if a third film is followed up, because the first two really set up some elements towards that end. However, my preference remains with the comics and their unique art and stories.