What better way to celebrate the Summer of the Graphic Novel (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Wanted all getting strong critical reception and making $120M+ at the box office… if you like you can add Hancock since it’s only a question of time before he has his own real comic book) than to check out the two most highly anticipated comic sequels of the year? Well, how about we check them both out on the same night!
Which is what Barb, Sunny, and I did. We didn’t plan it out that way but it worked out great since we were able to stay in the theater and avoid the long lines of fans waiting for the midnight debut of Dark Knight.
Big Red Strikes Again
The first installment of Hellboy introduced me to the full origins of Mike Mignola’s signature creation and Guillermo del Toro’s fine filmmaking which combined to make a great comic-to-film adadption.
Hellboy II delivers on del Toro and Mignola’s warehouse of fantastic characters, mix of fairy tale and modern soap opera, and fascinating human personalities with paranormal abilities. This comes out best in Doug Jones awesome portrayal of Abe Sapien who only got B time in the first movie. Abe is slick, fun, and endearingly charming even through all the layers of latex and makeup. Equally engaging is Johann Krauss, a mix of the Lost in Space robot and living spirit who matches up just fine against Hellboy. The opening sequence with John Hurt going over the legend of the Golden Army is pretty awesome with the toy characters acting out the initial sequence.
Sadly, Hellboy recycles too much of the angst from the first movie and doesn’t give the returning characters a space to move around, an opportunity wasted in the hidden city of “freaks.” All this equaling an awkward and choppy movie, definitely not the del Toro we’re used to.
Not a great sequel but not a bad one either. I’m sure del Toro will make amends in Hellboy 3—the ending practically screamed that—but we’re going to have to wait till after he finishes the Hobbit films.
Batman: Year Two
Last year I was hotly anticipating The Dark Knight but even then I was focusing less on Heath Ledger’s Joker and more on Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent. My suspicions turned out to be correct thanks to some early good reading as The Dark Knight writers and Christian Bale are all fans of one of my favorites modern graphic novels— Batman: The Long Halloween.
Bottom line: This is the Godfather II of all comic films, the rare sequel that builds and surpasses on its predecessor. My friend Claire argues that this film can’t stand on its own, and she’s right in that it’s a comic book movie and it’s meant to build on the original film. In that respect, it takes Batman Begins, the film that saved the Bat franchise and gave back film audiences a mythos they could love, and jumps our character to the next stage of his development.
Here’s the deal, if Batman stays the superhero and Gotham’s prize defender, we’ll be stuck on the treadmill that lead to Schumacher’s Bat-Trash. Christopher Nolan goes to the heart of the Batman and manages to transform him into the pariah and social outcast he really is while having moviegoers cheer and applaud the pathos.
As for Ledger, he delivers an amazing performance and becomes the Joker in every way possible. All this would live up to the Oscar hype except for the fact that Aaron Eckhart’s transformation from Harvey Dent into Two-Face trumps Ledger easily. He goes toe-to-toe with Bruce Wayne, Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the Joker without breaking a cinematic sweat. If anyone deserves an Oscar, it’s Eckhart.
The only flaw in Nolan’s Batman is that he has yet to deliver the World’s Greatest Detective, the one who outwitted everybody in the campy TV show and the one who beats out all the other superheroes in the DC Universe. Nolan’s Batman is all gadgets but little smarts, and that’s ok considering this is only his second big adventure. Hopefully we can see more of the Detective in what is sure to be a third film. The questions we have to munch on is:
Who’s the next Bat villain? (I’m hoping it’s Catwoman.)
Can Nolan make a movie that’s even better than this one? (I have faith he can.)
And how soon can I get a ticket?