You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know
the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the l
and of Egypt.
…learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable…
For comic book and fantasy lovers the summer of 2008 will be a memorable one. Although I am not a comic hero fan, Guillermo del Toro’s second film based on characters created by Mike Mignola for Dark Horse Comics, swept me up and away from my ordinary world for its two hours. Hellboy is a 6′ 5″ mutant with sawed-off horns, lobster red skin, and a long tail who works with other mutants for the government’s Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense (B.P.R.D. for short) in a war against evil.
This time the war is the resumption of an ancient one between humans and an array of elves, trolls, fairies, and other fantastical creatures. The war was suspended for many eons when the ruler of the mythic creatures, King Balor (Roy Dotrice) and humans arrived at a truce, agreeing that the latter would occupy cities and towns and the creatures the forests and wild places. However, as humans began to spread and misuse the earth by cutting down the forests, the king’s son Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) revolts, vowing to awaken the sleeping Golden Army, a large force of mechanical warriors created by his grandfather. Opposed to him is his sister Princess Nuala (Anna Walton).
There are too many details to go into the plot, Hellboy (Ron Perlman), being a very reluctant hero because the public judges him by his looks rather than his good deeds. We see this during a titanic struggle in the streets of Manhattan when our hero rescues a baby from flames, cradles it while he fights, and then, when he returns it safely, the mother accuses him of endangering her child. Hellboy has a lover in Liz Sherman (Selma Blair) who is able to see past his fierce exterior to his very humane heart and soul—ah, shades of Beauty and the Beast! She herself has super powers: when she becomes intensely excited or angry, she bursts into flames. Hellboy’s side kick is Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), sort of the resident philosopher with gills—he is the one who warns Hellboy about the dangers of his fiery temper. There is also the new team director Johann Krauss (John Alexander), a strange “ectoplasmic spirit held within a very special containment suit.” Because he is by-the-book leader sent to curtail the erratic Hellboy, there is a good deal of tension and bickering as the team is called on to find a way to stop the prince and his Golden Army.
The film is a testament to the power of what computer special effects can do when in the hands of such a talented filmmaker as Guillermo del Toro, whose Pan’s Labyrinth was so enchanting. There is a scene set in the Troll Market destined to be a classic, along with the barroom scene in Star Wars. This is a scene that will make owning the DVD of the film such a joy, filled as it is with all kinds of activities by the mythical creatures and humans bartering, and then our heroes and villains chasing and fighting each other. (And to think, this is the director who will be helming the film adaptation of The Hobbit! I can hardly wait!) Based as it is on a pagan mythology, Hellboy II affirms violence over gentler ways in dealing with evil, but its advocacy of the acceptance of the outsider is one we can all accept.
Contains spoilers 1) What do you think of the mythic world of the Hellboy series? How does it make the actions of the villain understandable? How have humans invited or helped trigger his wrathful rebellion?
2) How are Hellboy and his friends outsiders looking in as far as society is concerned? What have the prophets and Jesus said about such?
3) How are Prince Nuada and Princess Nuala the shadow and light sides of their family? How is her sacrifice an act of supreme grace?
4) What famous Chinese archaeological find does the Golden Army remind you of? How are they as soldiers the dream of any general? That is, how is military boot camp an attempt to make obedient machines out of recruits?
5) How does Liz Sherman and Abe Sapien serve as conscience for Hellboy?
A good example is when Hellboy, victorious over prince Nuada, holds up the completed Crown of Bethmora and exclaims, “All that power!” What does Liz do? How is this brief scene like the temptations in the wilderness for Jesus, or several scenes in Lord of the Rings wherein Bilbo, and then Frodo, are tempted to hold onto the Ring (not to speak of the ancient kings and of Boromir? In case you forgot, Liz snatches the crown and proceeds to destroy it as she says, “Don’t even think about it!” )
6) What does the scene in which Abe and Hellboy sing “Can’t Smile Without You” add to our understanding of the characters? How is Hellboy not a formulaic series?
7) Why do you think Hellboy is so appealing to readers of the comic and movie series? Why do we all need heroes?