It's time for a get together with everyone's favorite muscular, cigar puffing, profane friend who's obsessed with kittens and daytime TV.  No, I ain't talkin about your Grandma, it's Hellboy, and this weekend he's back in theaters for the visual packed sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. 

You may know the director, Guillermo del Toro (who looks like a jollier, nerdier Michael Moore) from his signature directing style; making movies with more stunning, dreamlike visuals than you can shake a stick at " Blade II, Hellboy/Hellboy II, and Pan's Labyrinth.  To be quite honest, I wasn't that big a fan of the first Hellboy.  The characters were entertaining and very creatively made, but the plot was a bit shaky to say the least, and it felt like del Toro didn't get the chance to maximize his visual potential.  I just wasn't feeling it.

I went into the theater with about the same mentality, not really expecting much at all other than a movie I probably would never have seen unless it was playing late at night on TBS.  I can definitely say now that I was really surprised by The Golden Army

First of all, the plot is much better this time around.  Other than the storyline from the first Hellboy, which was a) slightly confusing and b) had a very weak climax, The Golden Army manages to keep you interested the whole way through.  Let's start from the beginning.  For those of you unfamiliar with the series (the movie tells you at the beginning just in case you missed the first one), Hellboy is a demon that was found by US soldiers in the middle of WWII.  Much like CollegeHumor summer intern Jason Michaels, Hellboy ages differently from most men; although his actual age is around 60, he appears far younger, only in his late 20's or early 30's.  Raised by a paranormal doctor, professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy serves as an in the field agent for the US Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.  

The Golden Army opens as professor Bruttenholm reads a younger Hellboy a bedtime story.  Long ago, men and elves waged war with each other, hungry for more land.  The Elf King had a goblin craft for him an invincible army of golden mechanical warriors, which could be controlled by a crown.  After the army ravaged the armies of man too hard, the King of the Elves regretted the army's creation and struck a deal: humans would forever rule the cities, while the Elves would have the forests.  The crown was separated into 3 pieces, with 2 going to elves, and 1 to the humans.  Fast forward to 2008 where the Kings son, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), who has been in exile since the war, has had enough.  Nuada feels man has violated his part of the agreement by spreading his lands all over the planet, and initiates a war on all humans, his goal to assemble the broken crown and raise the now dormant golden army.  

Like I said, the plot is much cooler this time around (none of this 7 gods of whatever, or ?whats going on?' shenanigans), and the visually creative characters are all back from before.  Ron Perlman makes an awesome Hellboy.  Naturally, CGI plays a large role, but his gruff facial expressions, realistic character movements and vocal delivery come together and make an overall great character onscreen.  Along with Hellboy are Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) as his incredibly intelligent fish-man-ish creature, the fire summoning/girlfriend of Hellboy Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), and a new teutonic advisor I wish they had shown a bit more in the movie named Johann Krauss.  Krauss (voiced by Family Guy genius Seth McFarlane) is basically a spirit contained in a diving suit, who has the ability to float out and take control of random objects or things.  

I liked Hellboy, thought it was pretty good, although it seemed Del Toro didn't get to do completely what he wanted, and now it looks like after Pan's Labyrinth, they're finally giving him free reign over these characters. I'm very excited about the effects he's bringing to the movie, with awesome creatures and locations. My only hesitation is that he may have spent too much time on the look and not enough on the plot. Does the movie have a good plot (or at least do the effects carry it?)
- Bon Champion

Aside from having the most badass name I've ever seen, you bring up an important question that I wanted to touch on.  Moviemakers these days often rely too much on CGI and visuals, assuming if the final product is shiny and pretty enough we'll like it no matter what (Spider-man 3, anyone?) Fortunately, this isn't the case with The Golden Army.  After the incredible praise received from Pan's Labyrinth, it seems that del Toro really got the ability to cut loose with The Golden Army.  After all, the man turned down a chance to direct both I Am Legend and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so you know he was serious about giving Hellboy II his all.  Instead of relying on 100% visuals, del Toro merely uses his creative talents to add more audience captivation to the already interesting plot.  I personally would like to shake the hands of whoever had a part in the creation of the ?troll market' scene, which was really well done and reminded me a lot of the old Cantina bar scene from way back when, in Star Wars.  

As far as concerns go, there aren't too many to drag the entire film down.  Aside from the movie being a bit on the long side, the drama between Hellboy and his girlfriend Liz doesn't really go any deeper than lines even I've heard 1,000 times like, "I need my space".  The more interesting couple drama in the movie actually develops between Abe and Princess Nuala, but unfortunately doesn't really get touched on enough.  Relationship-y stuff aside, I wished they had played more on Hellboys ?coping' with society after the bureau for paranormal research and defense was accidentally revealed to the public.  At times the movie gives the impression that it's going to start taking off in that direction, but then just immediately changes back.  Needless to say, del Toro's imagination runs wild with a solid and comical script, making The Golden Army the film that the first Hellboy wished it could've been.   

The Bottom Line
: If you're a fan of Guillermo del Toro's films, I highly recommend this movie.  If you're a fan of action movies or the comic book hero genre, you should give this a try as well.

Grade: The visuals provided by del Toro are nothing short of spectacular, and the plot is good enough to hold our attention the whole way through.  Due to this and the above mentioned reasons, Hellboy II: The Golden Army gets a B for being a solid fanboy-pleasing comic action hero movie.

I thought for a change of pace next week we could all get together and talk about the upcoming smash, Mamma Mia! …Anyone? No? Bah, fine, I GUESS we'll just have to stick with the schedule, meaning that next up is The Dark Knight, followed by Step Brothers.  Send all questions or comments to CHMovieReview@gmail.com, and thanks to everyone who has written in so far.