Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hellacious heroes on the silver screen

One of the big movies opening up this week is a sequel that will be just as worth watching as The Dark Knight is,only with a little less hype.

That's a shame because Hellboy II: The Golden Army showcases the amazing imaginative visual talents of director Guillermo del Toro(who also directed the original Hellboy movie)and brings back the full set of actors that made the first movie so good. That's not always easy to do there,especially for a movie that has done well but not become a major household name.

Hellboy does have a strong following due to it's comic book origins and even a nifty line of action figures to boot but he doesn't seem to have the same superhero recognizability as even Hancock(which just came out and is a strictly made for the big screen story)outside of a Comic Con.

I'm wondering if part of that could be the "hero from hell" factor-as the tagline for Hellboy II says,believe or not,he's the good guy. I suspect that some folks might have a wee bit of a problem rooting for a demon with shaved off horns to save the day,despite the fact that he's just a big lug with a soft spot for cats and in love with a mortal woman,who happens to have psychic fire starter powers that keep her at bay from the rest of human male population. What's not to like,I ask you?

Hellboy isn't the first hero to deal with demoniac backstory issues but when Spawn hit the theaters in 1997,one of the setbacks wasn't lack of hype,it was overkill. Todd McFarlane has been both praised and jeered for his relentless promotion of his comic book creations and tie-in products and while you could argue about that until the cows come home,you certainly can agree that Spawn movie was not hiding from publicity.

Another big problem with Spawn was the high expectations that many of the die hard fans brought to it;having an animated HBO version of the character still fresh in the minds of those both inside and outside of comic book circles wasn't a check mark in the plus column for the film. The mixed reviews from critics didn't help either and reflected the assorted bag of goodies that the movie ultimately was:

While Constantine had a more human hero fighting the forces of evil,he wasn't quite on the side of the angels either. Tough talking,bitter to the enth degree and with darkly selfish motives,John Constantine follows in the tradition of 1940's film noir detectives,only armed with magic instead of a gun but still hitting the bottle and smoking like a fiend.

I knew the studio had doubts about the movie when they released it in the midwinter months of 2005. That's one of the prime Hollywood dumping grounds for genre movies and it deserved much better.

The film had a richly abundant blend of mythos and dark humor,matched by it's excellent cast that included Rachel Weisz,Djimon Hounsou,Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare in a show stealing performance as Lucifer. For some reason,Keanu Reeves does his best work as a leading man in films with totally out of this world themes(The Matrix,Devil's Advocate)-he seems to bring forth a solidly grounded central character in the midst of the chaos all about him:

Perhaps Hellboy II will do better than expected,leading the way for more brimstone bound heroes to grace the silver screen. To those who have some lingering reluctance for such unlikely saviors of humanity,try to keep in mind that saying about not judging books by their covers. That applies to comics,too.

Speaking of comics,I just hope that if and when a live action version of Lady Death is made,they put more focus on the characters and the plot than the skimpy outfit Her Evilness wears. Come on,Hollywood, keep your eye on the prize and not the cleavage for once:

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