The film opens with a flashback of John Hurt (killed off in the previous installment) telling an adolescent Hellboy a bedtime story about a war between Men and the creatures of myth (Goblins, Trolls, Elves, ect). The visuals that accompany this story are not of the same motif as the rest of the film but instead they are rather like a CG version of a Quay Brothers film with wooden figures and mechanical gears propelling armies toward each other. The story then jumps ahead to present day and Jeffery Tambor’s Tom Manning upset that Hellboy doesn’t listen to him. He is the cause of so many of these wrong notes in the film’s first hour. Also Abe Sapien is back but the voice of David Hyde Pierce is not – this is not a good thing. So the story unfolds though too many coincidences and there are some action scenes including one in Diagon Alley!! There are some great references to John Landis and Jim Henson and some overly overt ones to Universal creatures (Frank specifically). There is a love story that never feels right and a bunch of relationships that are fairly unbelievable. On the other hand the action scenes are nearly perfect as is one scene in the middle of the film where Hellboy and Abe break into song! The ancillary creatures are stunningly rendered (as the fantasy world of Pan was) and final battle is a seamless blend of CG and live action that isn’t edited to death.
I wanted to like this film, I really did, but del Toro once again fails to connect as a storyteller. Throughout the film he either coaxes the wrong notes out of his actors or edits the wrong takes into the film. It must be all that time spent in his own imagination that gets in the way of him getting the human aspect of his films right. Guillermo del Toro is an utterly hopeless filmmaker who needs to be kicked out of the director’s chair and restricted to a creature house so that we can all enjoy his visual tour de force stylistics without sitting through his failed attempts to hang them on his lackluster scripts. Feel free to leapfrog George Lucas on the way.