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I'm a longtime contributor to MTV, Billboard, Alternative Press and MovieWeb. I've worked as on-air reporter, host, writer and producer for MTV, MSNBC and E!. I have provided opinion and commentary to programs on VH1, IFC, G4, Fuse, Current and Oxygen. I have written for Huffington Post, Premiere, OC Weekly, SFGate.com, NextMovie.com, MTV's television and movie blogs and other publications. I am the founder of Superhero Productions, providing broadcast, online and aftermarket content for a number of clients including Lionsgate, Sony and Warner Bros. I personally handle artist management for a handful of bands. "Ryan Downey has established a history of breaking some good scoops in the last few years, and you could certainly do worse than bookmark [him] to check in on." -- Ain't It Cool

Friday, June 27, 2008

Movie Review: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Let's hope "Hellboy III" isn't directed by Brett Ratner.

Because the awesomeness of "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" whips the itself-above-average first "Hellboy" flick across the face with its title characters pointy tail and Right Hand Of Doom. It is GOOD.

Freed from the origin story expositional baggage of the first flick that slows most comic book franchise starters and the scaredy-cat decision making of the bean counters (hey, I liked David Hyde Pierce on "Frasier" but did they really need to re-record Abe Sapien's voice?), "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" is to it's predecessor what "X2: X-Men United" was to "X-Men."

Getting to visit the set of the first "Hellboy" in Prague was incredible and talking to co-writer / director Guillermo del Toro was a blast. What was an even bigger feather in my cap, however, was when the studio called and asked for the raw tapes of my press junket interview with Del Toro so they could use it to pitch other outlets on what a great interview he could be. Of course, since then, he's wowed the world with "Pan's Labyrinth" and has everyone buzzing about his possible take on "The Hobbit."

But I digress. "Hellboy II" has exactly the right tone to match the Dark Horse Comic: serious, funny, supernatural, romantic, charming, melancholy, all rolled up in one. The freaks-versus-humans theme is reminiscent of the "X-Men" flicks but it doesn't feel tired, particularly since in Hellboy's case (played even BETTER this time out by Ron Perlman, who did a great job last time) really, really wants to be liked, all the while taking the previously hard-won affections of Liz Sherman (again played with a restraint that makes her character feel not only plausible but totally authentic by Selma Blair) for granted.

Abe Sapien plays much better this time thanks to Del Toro getting his way with having the brilliant Doug Jones voice left in the film, rather than recorded over by a bigger "name" actor like last time. In fact, Del Toro's stamp is all over this movie, with meddling from the suits seemingly near-absent (compare the director's cut of "Daredevil" to the theatrical to see how a studio can RUIN a comic book movie by removing nearly all of the dramatic character-building storytelling elements in favor of getting to the chopped up and dumbed down "action" more quickly).

The villain (played by Luke Goss) isn't corny (although the "Golden Army" that turns up briefly in the end had my buddy Derek Daniels joking about "Transformers") and there's a nice nod to Moss Eisley in a scene set at a "troll market" underneath a bridge in New York. Like Christopher Nolan, Del Toro recognizes that comic book films play much better with good old fashioned guys-in-rubber-masks, prosthetics and real stunt people than a bunch of CGI that winds up looking like Shrek landed the role of The Hulk.

Which isn't to say CG isn't employed of course but it's seamless, particularly in a Godzilla monster movie like sequence where Hellboy battles a beautiful and tragic "forest god" of sorts unleashed on a city street all while keeping a baby safe, which reminded me of "Hellboy saves kittens," the scene I had the chance to witness while on the set of the first movie. Del Toro knows how to make nods to his favorite films without distracting the audience with too many overt homages.

As with his "Blade" picture, Del Toro GETS IT. I'm more than happy to report that fact and I'm looking forward to interviewing him and the cast (and maybe talking to Selma Blair about Joy Division like we did at the junket for "A Guy Thing") this weekend.

1 comment:

David Agranoff said...

GDT is my favorite director and the fate of Hellboy III is the reason I am pissed about him doing the hobbit.

Hellboy II is going to be amazing. Ryan I don't know if you remember but when Burn It Down was driving to Syracuse that time you played with turmoil I told you about kronos and devil's backbone about how GDT was going to be the next big director. I remember because we were talking about Blade II and you said you thought it was an odd choice for an arthouse horror director.