Sunday, July 28, 2013


In the early morning hours of January 1st 2009, a young man by the name of Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale train stop in Oakland California. Grant was black and the officer was white. The shooting resulted in protests and riots that failed to result in any change. Grants death is just one in a string of senseless, unnecessary shootings on young, black men. This event serves as the basis for Ryan Coogler's debut film Fruitvale Station. 

The film could have traced the political ramifications of the event, but instead focuses on Grant, flowing him on the last day of his life. He's played wonderfully here by Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle). His situation is not that unusual for a 22 year old living in poverty. He want's to support his girlfriend and the daughter they have together, but he's been fired from his job and can't find another one. To fill the gap sometimes he sells weed, but he feels queasy about it. He's been to prison and he certainly has anger issues, but whatever flaws he has, and he certainly has them, he's no thug.

The ordinariness with which the film portrays him is the films best offering. American film is short on portrayals of black men and women that resist stereotype but sometimes that very mundaneness can be a doubble edged sword. The film has little to communicate beyond the senselessness of his death and by the time Oscar and his friends take that faithful trip into town the film has long run out of ways to show us that Grant was a mostly good kid trying to make the best out of his situation. With the exception of one scene involving a dog, the film doesn't dip too far into hagiography though at times I wondered how much this film was showing Oscar as an individual rather than an amalgamation of a type.

The last 20 minutes are the film's best. Coogler stages the events leading up to Oscar's death in an appropriately harrowing manner. The film doesn't get everything right but it nails the tragedy. Fruitvale Station may have more value as an expression of our currant zeitgeist than a film. It's moving and tragic but on an intellectual level does little more than ask "why?" In the wake of Oscar Grant's death and that of Trayvon Martin and those dozens of others we need a film that says more. This is a complex issue encamping attitudes towards race, poverty, gun control and the trustworthiness of law enforcement. The film encourages us to not lose sight of the human side, but this issue also cries out for a film with a more complex, fully formed worldview. Unfortunately, even a film with such a simple, self-evident message feels painfully necessary in the current climate.

Grade: B

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The problem with franchise film making is that it seems to require a certain amount of status-quo. No matter how dramatic it would be, you can't kill Iron Man because the studio has a five picture deal. But when freed from these restraints really interesting things can happen. As it entered production, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan looked like it might be the last Trek film. Certainly, the last with Leonard Nimoy who had grown tired of his role in a franchise that frankly hadn't been serving him well. But then two things happened. Firstly, he started to enjoy making Wrath which gave him a fantastic death scene that was the whole thematic crux of the film, and secondly Wrath of Khan ended up making more money then expected. A third film was now in the cards, but Spock was dead. The franchise could have moved forward and dealt with the consequences of this major dramatic event in a thoughtful manner, but it would also mean risk losing part of what made the franchise profitable. The laws of status-quo demand Spock’s return.

As a result, we got Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Talk about putting a spoiler in the title. No money will be awarded to anyone who guesses whether or not they find him. Any film that starts from this premise is bound to disappoint. It's not a cynical film by any means, but it exists as a rote rebuke of everything the previous film was about.  Spock's self sacrifice was meant to teach Kirk that he couldn’t cheat death...except now he can, kinda sorta.

Just Kidding: The Movie starts by rewinding back to the end of Wrath, and reminding us that just before Spock died, he mind melded with Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley). After the Enterprise returns to Earth, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is informed by Spock's father (the wonderful Mark Leonard) that the mind meld transferred Spock's soul into McCoy's body. If Kirk can just bring McCoy and Spock's body to Vulcan, then Spock could be revived with an ancient ritual. The Vulcan's have always had some psychic powers, but it's a bit silly when they go from being studious logicians to bringing people back from the dead with magic.

Having McCoy, all Kirk needs is Spock's body which is on the Genesis Planet created at the end of the last film. It's far too simple a goal for this film so we get a couple perfunctory roadblocks such as Starfleet brass decommissioning the Enterprise and a group of Klingon's extremist's, lead by Christopher Lloyd for some reason, who are trying to get their hands on the Genesis Device which no longer exists.

None of this works as well as it should. Having Leonard Nimoy direct the film may have been a good way to keep him around but it serves the film poorly. He would go on to direct a much better Star Trek film in the future, but his direction here aims for somber but misses the mark and becomes flat and ordinary. Ultimately he’s serving too many masters. Nimoy wants to give Spock’s death the proper weight but is also caught up in the idea of bringing him back and too distracted by exploring the further implications of the Genesis Device. Though some of the blame should fall on screenwriter/producer Harve Bennett, Nimoy’s inability to connect all these ideas coherently only exacerbates the thinness of the film.

The Genesis angle does provide the film with its best stuff. We get Savvak (recast with Robin Curtis for money reasons) and Kirk's son David (Merrit Butrick) exploring the Genesis planet. We learn that David took some unethical shortcuts in creating the device that are now causing the planet to rapidly destabilize. They also find Spock, his body reanimated by the planet's radiation or something. Not only has his body been reanimated, he's also been rejuvenated into a rapidly aging young boy who's consciousness is tied to the planet. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but at least it’s engaging.

This idea of Spock’s body being torn up by the planet mirrors the idea of McCoy's mind being overloaded by the added burden of Spock's consciousness, but neither idea really develops. The McCoy angle is particularly neglected and inconstant, basically boiling down to Kelley slipping into a spotty impression of Nimoy. It scores some laughs to be sure, but as a device, it essentially robs the film of both Spock and McCoy, making the film feeling somewhat under populated.

But we still have Kirk and the rest of the crew who do an admirable job filling in for some fluffy heist sequences where the crew plot to steal the Enterprise back. These sequences play heavily on the star power of the actors and is the first time in the franchise where all the supporting characters have something to do (except Checkov, poor guy). With these scenes we also get some of the aging theme that's been present in the previous films. We learn that the reason that reason the Enterprise has been decommissioned is to make room for a younger crew on a new, experimental ship, The Excelsior. None of this ever rises above escapist fantasy about how these borderline senior citizens are willing to sacrifice their carriers to save their friend and go on one, last adventure. It’s heartwarming but it's also tremendously easy.

The film tries to darken itself up towards the end when those pesky, shoehorned Klingons show up for one of those forgettable, climactic fist fights avoided by films with better sense. (Spoilers) As Kirk kicks the Klingon captain off a cliff he shouts out, in classic Shatner-esque fashion: "I have had enough of you," a sentiment which unfortunately sums up the entire scene. In the lead up, David sacrifices himself so the franchise can avoid dealing with Kirk having a son, and in the film's most effective moment, Kirk destroys the Enterprise. Perhaps it's personal bias, but seeing serious harm done to any incarnation of the Enterprise always seems to work dramatically, it's the only "character" in this franchise that can be killed and replaced without dedicating an entire film to it. (End Spoilers)

Search for Spock is a mixed bag of a film, but it is enjoyable. It exists primarily to retcon large parts of what is arguably the franchises best film. It’s also wafer thin, and full of easy, downright lazy choices, but it still holds together, largely due to the charisma of the cast. As cynical as it looks on paper, it does have some genuine heart to it. It’s a lesser Trek, but it’s the best of the lesser Trek’s.

Grade: C+

Trekkin' It directory:
The Motion Picture
Space Seed / The Wrath of Khan
The Search for Spock
The Voyage Home
The Final Frontier
The Undiscovered Country

First Contact

Star Trek '09
Into Darkness (spoiler analysis) 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Pacific Rim is the new film by avid monster geek, Guillermo Del Toro. This is his first film in five years and followed a series of projects fell apart before production could begin. I'm Loren Greenblatt, and joining me is Max O'Connell of The Film Temple.

Max O’Connell:
We've been eagerly awaiting Pacific Rim, not in small part because we’re big fans of Del Toro. I have a personal connection because I’ve been a Godzilla fan since I was about 3. It was my first movie love, so seeing Del Toro effectively do a Godzilla movie just made me happy.

Loren Greenblatt: When I was 4, I saw Jurassic Park, and during the showing, I stood up on my chair and said, “I wanna do that!” I decided I wanted to make movies. I feel that there are kids walking out of a theatre showing Pacific Rim who are making the same decision. This movie is an absolute joy.

MO: Basic plot: in the near future a bunch of giant monsters, called Kaiju (named for the Japanese film genre that gave us Godzilla) from another dimension come through a crack in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and start attacking. After trying more traditional methods, humanity builds a bunch of giant, human piloted robots called Jaegers, which is German for “hunter,” to fight the Kaiju. But twenty years into the program, the war is taking a turn for the worse and the Jaeger program is being shut down in favor of building a wall. This turns out to be a bad idea, and the leader of the program, the awesomely-named Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba of Luther fame) brings in a former Jaeger pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) to be a final member of the human resistance.

LG: This isn't the kind of film we normally get in America, certainly not in live-action and at this budget level. The closest equivalent we have in recent cinema are Micheal Bay's awful Transformers movies. All these films are primarily concerned with giant monsters smashing up cities. The difference between Bay's films and Pacific Rim is that Guillermo Del Toro understands that an action movie’s success doesn’t depend on explosions, but on us caring about the people in those explosions. It’s not enough that we have a person piloting the Jaeger- we have two, because according to the film’s pseudoscience, one pilot isn’t enough to handle the neural load that comes with having your mind and movements connected to a giant robot. A jaeger requires two pilots liked through their memories. It's not one chosen person against the world, suddenly it becomes about teamwork, can these people overcome tension between them to work together. It's probably no coincidence that these Jaeger pilots tend to be family members, it makes thematic sense and it ups the stakes. Like we see In the film’s prologue, where Raleigh and his brother take Gipsy Danger, an American Jaeger, on an ill fated mission that end's the brother's death.

MO: He quits, and five years later, Pentecost brings him back. Raleigh gets to pick whichever co-pilot he wants, but the only one he really forms a connection with is Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi of Babel), who has her own past trauma with the Kaiju.

LG: After the first couple of giant monster battles, which really are quite wonderful, the film settles down and goes to the Jaeger complex in Hong Kong, dubbed The Shatterdome, and it turns into a bit of a drama about human cooperation in the face of outrageous adversity. I like that this is a reasonably multicultural group saving the world- we get a Russian team, a Chinese team, an Australian team, a British black guy running the program, and a final team made up of one American and one Japanese woman. It’s not just a bunch of Americans saving the world (but mostly New York) from certain doom. It’s a very universal-minded movie.

MO: There was a piece in The Dissolve this week by Tasha Robinson that argued that the film’s success was partly based in the fact that it doesn’t invoke 9/11, and that it tries to make it more universal.

LG: Not that it can't be done in a film like this. The original Godzilla very liberally quotes WWII imagery, like the destruction of Hiroshima and the firebombing of Tokyo, that would have been very fresh in the minds of Japanese audiences and arguably more traumatic. But we've been getting a lot of 9/11 imagery this Summer and I'm glad that Del Toro didn't resort to it here, and Robinson is right, the lack of that imagery with its coddled, American context fits in to Del Toro's universalist mindset. It's one of the key things this film gets from being directed by a non-American. Unlike similar films, we don't have a jingoistic military fighting against a dehumanized group of “others,” this is a film about humanity saving humanity.

MO: I also love that while the main appeal of the film is the brawny “giant robots fight sea monsters” angle, two of the most compelling and helpful people in the group are a pair of scientists.

LG: Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is sort of their version of Jeff Goldblum. He’s an excitable, he has Kaiju tattoos and fancies himself a rock-star scientist but he’s very nerdy and silly.

MO: He’s kind of the Guillermo Del Toro stand-in. He’s made entirely of boyish enthusiasm, and Day is very good in this role, credibly spitting out the pseudoscientific dialogue in a rapid-fire pace while still serving as a pretty great source of comic relief. And on the other hand, we have Burn Gorman as the other scientist, Herman, who’s much more button-down. It’s kind of a battle between an intuitive, experimental scientist and one who believes almost solely in testing numbers. So we’ve talked a little bit about how we actually care about the characters in the explosions…but what about those explosions?

LG: Oh my god, those explosions are wonderful! Shooting and framing these kinds of battles is very difficult. It’s difficult when you have these large things fighting each other to capture everything and still convey a sense of scale. If you’re too close, you can’t see anything. If you’re too far away, we don’t get the size. Michael Bay showed us how not to do it. Del Toro finds a very nice middle-ground where it feels almost like these are giant sporting events. And the creatures are a lot of fun- every Kaiju is a little different, they come in different sizes and have different abilities. The Jaegers themselves are full of these wonderful gadgets, some have three arms, some have swords, etc. All this keeps the fights from being repetitive There’s always something else going on, and we feel like the stakes are being raised with each battle, which is essential.

MO: There’s a sense of levels to everything, which was a problem with, say, the Chicago sequence in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which is just an hour of carnage. We don’t feel exhausted at the end here because there is a gradual build. Part of that is the size of the machines and monsters, part is Del Toro’s natural gifts with pacing. I’ve heard some people complain that the fights are all staged in the rain at night, which I guess I can understand, but they all look great. He’s able to use some frenetic editing when it’s called for, but we have a sense of where everything is, we can tell what’s going on…for almost every fight, I know exactly where every character is in relation to each other, whether it’s established through photography or through cross-cutting. That sounds simple, but so many blockbusters forget basics of spatial dynamics. And that’s what makes everything so exciting, not just the robots with swords. Though, come on, my inner 9-year-old was about to have a joyful heart attack at that sword. But then there’s the look of this: the way it’s composed, the way colors blend together in an impressionistic blur. It’s a beautiful film.

LG: And there’s a sense of humor in the fights when there needs to be. Del Toro is great with those cartoonish moments in the middle of his fights, like the Wile E. Coyote shot in Blade II. Not to spoil anything, but there's a wonderful moment involving a Newton’s Cradle (the clicking metallic balls that go back and forth when you hit one) and another involving a football stadium. I almost feel like we’re underselling it by saying that the fights are staged competently. It's almost a commentary on how badly many action scenes are shot that we are too often impressed with 'competently shot, ' but this goes beyond that. There’s a lot going on in these fights to make them work. There's a lot things going on with the mismatching of the abilities of the different Kaiju and Jaegers and then on the inside of the machines- Raleigh and Mako need to link their memories in order to pilot them. And Mako has a similar past trauma, so there’s a lot of tension in whether or not she’ll be able to hack it. It’s a little bit of a Top Gun set-up.

MO: It sort of is, though that’s subverted. This is kind of a regular thing with fighter-pilot movies, where the cocky fighter-pilot gets someone killed, but by the end he saves the day, so it’s no big deal. Del Toro’s not interested in celebrating the macho hero. It’s actually though shared experiences and understanding each other that these people can fight together.

LG: I also love how detailed this film is. This isn’t a film bound by realism, it isn’t trying to be a realistic Godzilla movie. But it does imagine what it might be like if a society had to deal with these attacks for twenty plus years. In the beginning of the film, we see the government deciding to abandon the Jaeger program and build a giant wall. Now I’m not going to read into it too much, but I do think there’s some sly humor here. We have a Mexican director making a thing about a wall to keeps aliens out. It’s a cute, clever little jab at how ineffectual that strategy is and at how alien invasion movies tend to use their aliens as stand-ins for “foreigners”.

MO: Oh, that’s clever. I didn’t notice that.

LG: And the biggest scene dealing with it is set in Alaska, a very Republican state. Again, don’t read into it, it’s just a joke. But it is the kind of detail that sets this film apart. Any other movie would probably not even think of something like this, let alone would it find the time to show the wall being built or give a sense of what it’s like building it. But Del Toro does. We see how dangerous it is and it does a wonderful job of showing the cost of living under this kind of a constant threat. In one short scene, we get the sense that economies have tumbled, and that society has had to rebuild itself in new and strange ways. But it isn’t a movie that wallows in despair. Instead, it finds new questions to answer and new details to dazzle us. I don’t know that too many people wondered what happens to giant monsters after they die, but we get a pretty good answer here. We get cites built around their skeletons, which is awesome, and we get to learn what the government does with the Kaiju organs and brains for experiments, not to mention what a black market dealer like Hannibal Chau (played wonderfully by Ron Perlman) does with them. They explain, at least in a very general way, how the new Jaegers work differently from old ones, and how some are analog where others are digital and some are nuclear powered. It’s all gobbledygook, but it’s done with such care that we believe it. It’s real gobbledygook. The same thing goes for the Kaiju who have a well thought out biology.There’s no detail of this world that Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham didn’t think of.

MO: I like that we get a sense of how the Kaijus do work. Del Toro believes that monsters are beautiful creatures, and they are here. But we also get a complicated view of monsters. (Spoilers) Where past Del Toro films viewed monsters as animals rather than evil creatures, here they’re perhaps evil, but they’re not just dumb animals. There’s a method to their destruction that’s perhaps not too complicated, but there’s an intelligence there. It’s something that could have been explored more, but we get enough here. If we got a sequel, we’d probably see more. There’s a little bit more to the monsters than usual.

LG: It’s kind of ridiculous to assume that creatures this large, with equally large brains, are stupid. Yes, I know that brain's don't necessarily work that way, but this is sci-fi logic.

MO: We also get a sense of being in the Jaeger experience. When Mako and Raleigh first mind-link (it’s called drifting here), there’s a wonderful blur of colors as we see some of their past experiences in a blue light that reminded me of Minority Report. It highlights how important it is to share past experiences with each other, and it’s beautiful just to behold. And I also love what happens when Mako can’t handle her past trauma, which her first mind-link makes her re-experience. It turns out that her family was killed in a Kaiju attack when she was a little girl, and we her get lost in that memory. It’s a little bit like Del Toro’s recreation of a past experience in Hellboy, and it’s a lot like how Christopher Walken sees the past in David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone, which Del Toro is a huge fan of. We’re placed inside a memory, and Raleigh can observe, but he can’t change it, and he can’t convince Mako that it isn’t real. This is problematic because she’s connected to the Jaeger, and when she gets scared, the giant killer machine responds to her emotions. This was my favorite scene in the film- I was genuinely terrified not only by what she might do, but by the memory itself, which is like the “raptors in the kitchen” scene in Jurassic Park blown up to gigantic scale. And there’s a beautiful image of her carrying a little red shoe that’s wonderful. (End spoilers)

LG: The thing about this film is that it does outdo at least one aspect of the Godzilla series. You’ve seen more of those movies than I have, but I've never cared about the humans in those movies except for in the original. Especially if it’s the 1998 version. I don’t go to these movies for humans doing human things. I go for monsters smashing things. And it’s very interesting that in this, I do care about the human people doing human things. It really makes the movie. Some of the human drama is a bit clichéd, which is often true of Del Toro’s American films, but he does it so earnestly that it doesn’t really matter.

MO: Yeah, the fact that we get an Independence Day speech from Idris Elba or a hoary father-son story from the Australian characters might be clichéd, but it’s a fun cliché, damn it! It’s handled rather well. I was initially a little let down that the actual emotional arc with our protagonist, Raleigh, and our other lead, Mako, is solved about halfway or two-thirds of the way through when they are able to establish a mind-link. It’s a bit messy, structurally, I’ll admit. But at the same time, it kind of seems like they’re leads in name only. It’s more of an ensemble piece, because the other characters’ arcs take over after that. We get to see the Australian father-son duo (Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky, both great) work out their relationship.

LG: He’s a cocky alpha-male shithead, and the father admits that he loves him but doesn’t know whether he needs “a hug or a kick in the ass”. Them learning to work with others and admit their love for each other is a cliché, but it’s rather effective.

MO: I was even more involved in the relationship between Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as the diametrically-opposed scientists who find a way to blend their approaches- hard science with intuition- which ends up playing a major part in saving the day. I love where Idris Elba’s character winds up going, which ends up playing to Del Toro’s pet theme of self-sacrifice. There is more going on in terms of character than people gave it credit. It’s kind of like Jurassic Park: not as rich with character as some of its creators’ past blockbusters, but it’s more complicated than it looks on the surface.

LG: The characters in Jurassic Park weren’t incredibly deep, but there is more going on intellectually than people gave it credit.

MO: Del Toro did cut out about an hour of character material. He said that we can’t pretend this is Ibsen with monsters and giant robots. We get sketches, and that’s all we really need.

LG: I think it's kind of amazing that the movie finds time to do as much as it does and does it in only 2 hours. That’s short for most blockbusters these days, which are bloated all the way to 2 ½ hours. It’s OK to have a long one when it’s deserved, but it’s getting automatic. This doesn’t stick around too long. It gets in, does what it’s doing, and gets out. It’s very lean, and it moves well.

MO: It moved so well, and it’s made with such boyish enthusiasm that it made me not care about the few problems I did have with it, whether it’s the structural problems with the protagonists, or the quasi-romance between Raleigh and Mako. It’s cute in the beginning, especially in a fight scene they have that determines how perfect they are for each other for a mind-link. It’s adorable.

LG: And (spoilers) the movie doesn’t force a romance on these characters. It could go there at some point, but at this point at the end of the world, it’s about them working together, not learning to fall in bed together.

MO: That helps Mako stand out as more than just a guy-accessory, which is what Del Toro wanted to do. And it does serve the film’s central theme of teamwork by not having them fall in bed together. But my issue is that the romance is built up, and at the end, it looks like they’re going to have that moment to admit their love and kiss, but it doesn’t really go there. It felt to me like Del Toro was a little too afraid of making her a guy accessory that he kind of defeated what was left of their emotional arc.

LG: But their relationship at that point has transcended “will they or won’t they”. They’re co-combatants, they’re siblings in arms, and they’re literally in each other’s minds. Remember that this film associates the co-pilot relationship with family roles. I'm not saying that they can't go there in a future movie, but not going there in this film is a very deliberate statement on Del Toro's part.

MO: I agree that it works intellectually and thematically. It serves the film’s key theme of learning to work together and trust each other. But by the end it sacrifices a bit of an emotional peak. (end spoilers)

LG: But we squeeze a lot more emotion out of this movie than I thought was possible.

MO: Yeah, this is really just a minor qualm. The film did make me forget most of my complaints. All but one really. There’s one teeny-tiny one that we can’t overlook. Almost every performance in this film is wonderful- Perlman is fun, Day and Gorman make a great comic-relief/heart of the film, Elba gives the gravitas, Kikuchi is great. Charlie Hunnam…

LG:…he’s…not the worst actor in the world. I haven’t seen him in anything else before, but he's not great here. He’s particularly deadly when asked to narrate.

MO: The exposition in the beginning of the film works rather well, considering that they have to get a lot of information out at once, because it’s played with a bunch of monsters attacking the world. The only problem is his narration, which is deadening. And it’s not just because he’s a British actor doing a terrible, terrible American accent. That’s not the issue. He has no charm or charisma in this thing. The best thing I can say about this performance is that he’s not Sam Worthington. He’s boring, but he doesn’t look sleepy the whole time.

LG: He’s much better than Sam Worthington, but we all are.

MO: We needed a light up in the smile kind of guy. Chris Pine was busy with Star Trek Into Darkness, but if we could just get a guy with that kind of charm we’d be fine. Some of my friends complained that it’s not the most interesting character anyway, which is true. Almost by default, he’s the least interesting character.

LG: I love Pine, but I don't think his brand of cockiness would fit here. The film almost needs a quieter character to contrast all the loudness of everything else. We need stoic and haunted isn’t up to the task. It’s very unusual for Del Toro to cast someone so bland in the lead. I know he’s wanted to work with Hunnam for a while, but it doesn’t work.

MO: I’ve seen him in a few other things. I only saw the pilot of Sons of Anarchy, which I thought he was fine in, but again, not the most interesting character in the show. And I remember liking him in Cold Mountain, but it’s been years since I’ve seen it. I don’t know what happened. He didn’t work here.

LG: But that’s about the worst thing I can say about this movie. Hopefully, maybe, by the skin of their teeth, we’ll get enough to see a sequel.

MO: I think this thing is going to be a success, I think there will be a word-of-mouth for it that might make it stick around. A lot of people are walking out of this thing thrilled.

LG: Kids are going to love this.

MO: They will, and I think there is more to chew on than people are giving it credit. It’s not as rich as, say, Hellboy II or obviously Pan’s Labyrinth, but it’s not intellectually bankrupt. Most of all, though, it’s an absolute blast. I had a reaction of pure childlike joy.

LG: In a summer of heavy blockbusters trying to be dark and serious, this is a movie that really wants to entertain to the fullest extent possible. It's a mega-budget film without cynicism or pretension and that’s becoming increasingly rare. 

Loren's Grade: Now, I’m of two minds when grading this film. If I were reviewing this on its own without the context of the Roundtable, I’d give it an A because it’s a top-notch summer blockbuster, easily the best tentpole I'm likely to see this year.  But in the context of his other films, I’d give it a B. I’ll split the difference and give it a high B+.

Max's Grade: I’m giving it a pretty unreserved A-. It’s the most joyful experience I’ve had in a theater in I don’t know how long. Go see this fucking thing!
Roundtable Directory:
Mimic (director's cut)
The Devil's Backbone
Blade II
Hellboy (director's cut)
Pan's Labyrinth
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Unmade Del Toro
Pacific Rim


As our retrospective on the work of Guillermo Del Toro winds down, we thought it would be fun to look at the many Del Toro projects that are in some stage of production and the ones that never made it off the ground. I'm Loren Greenblatt and joining me, as always, is Max O'Connell of The Film Temple.

Loren Greeblatt: So, Guillermo Del Toro has a lot of things on his plate. Pacific Rim is his first film in five years, but he hasn’t been sitting on his ass. Right after Hellboy II, he was going to direct The Hobbit, but there were a bunch of catastrophes, like MGM collapsing. After a year and a half of waiting in limbo, not even knowing if the film would ever be allowed to shoot, he decieded to bow out leaving it to Peter Jackson to direct.

Max O’Connell: He still has co-writing credits, though we can’t really blame him for how mixed we were on the film. It’s really Jackson’s problem that it’s so all over the place. Meanwhile, Del Toro has a bunch of other projects, and that’s not including his planned Pacific Rim sequel if the film is a hit. Hey, dude, finish Hellboy III first.

LG: The status of Hellboy III is sadly in limbo. Because of “mediocre” box office returns on the last one, he really needs to push to get it made. Lately he's been saying the prospect is looking grim, but he is trying and the recent partnership with his Pacific Rim producer Thomas Tull and Universal Pictures (who currently owns the rights) is a good sign. But he still needs someone to sign over the cash, and apparently he feels that this third film would need to be a lot more expensive than the first two because of the apocalypse he wants to show. In terms of projects that are actually happening, a few years ago he co-wrote a trilogy of horror books with Chuck Hogan called The Strain. I’ve read part of the first one. It’s a bit of a mishmash of a lot of Del Toro elements- vampirism as an outbreak, the American version of the villain from Cronos, some fairytale elements, and an amazing set-piece on an airplane, but the human drama is terrible. It’s the reason I stopped reading.

MO: Del Toro is also directing the pilot of a TV-series adaptation that debuts on FX hopefully this year. It’ll star Ron Perlman, Corey Stoll (Hemingway in Midnight in Paris), Kevin Durand (Lost, Cosmopolis). I’m hopeful. Right now he's gearing up his Pacific Rim follow up, a small-scale horror film that he’ll hopefully be able to knock out quickly. It’s called Crimson Peak, and it’s a haunted house film that’s a modern horror film that’s classical, set-oriented, and a throwback to films that don’t get made anymore because of found footage. His influences are The Omen, The Exorcist, and The Shining, all of which I love, the last of which is my pick for the scariest movie ever made (with The Exorcist being not too far behind).

LG: I haven't been exactly sure what to make of this, but recently he's stated that he considers this film to be akin to his more adult oriented Spanish Language films. So expect this to be in the Pan's Labyrinth mode, but in English.

MO: The cast includes Charlie Hunnam from Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim, Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mia Wasikowska…not exactly lightweights, though I really hope Hunnam decides to actually act this time around.

LG: But for every project that Del Toro makes, there are many that don't make it like Mefisto's Bridge or that Western retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo called Left Hand of Darkness. After Mimic he pitched an idea for Exorcist IV which would have involved Father Merrin investigating an occult murder at the Vatican during WWII (Spoiler Alert: The Devil did it), but the studio didn't want it because it would have ended with an exorcism and the studio felt that was the reason Exorcist III didn't make any money. They wanted Exorcist IV, but they didn't want to have any exorcisms in it.

MO: That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

LG: Yes it is. But Hollywood is full of people saying 'no' for dumb reasons. The most high-profile unmade Del Toro film is At the Mountains of Madness, based on the H.P. Lovecraft novelette. Del Toro has a major thing for classic horror and Lovecraft, and has inserted references throughout his filmography. He wants to do it as a tentpole horror, citing The Thing as the kind of thing he's going for.

MO: The problem is that it would be very expensive, and it’d have to be rated R. You can’t go PG-13 on this, and he was insistent on that.

LG: Del Toro went through this problem on his produced-written film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which wasn’t very graphic but the MPAA rated it R for being too scary. Del Toro had some big guns on Mountains - Tom Cruise was going to star, and James Cameron was going to produce it right after Avatar.

MO: It came close to happening- the script was done, Matthew Robbins was his co-writer, and the creatures were half-designed. But Universal got cold feet at the very last second.

LG: Then Del Toro got nervous because it turns out Ridley Scott’s Prometheus had a lot it common, but he’s talked about doing it since then. If Pacific Rim is a hit, he’ll get the chance.

MO: That’s what I’m hoping for- Pacific Rim is a big enough hit overseas that he gets to make this, and then he makes Hellboy III, damn it.

LG: We will see anything he does so long as it is At the Mountains of Madness or Hellboy III.

MO: He’s done a lot of production work, playing godfather to talented young horror directors, most notably the very good film The Orphanage by Juan Antonio Bayona. And Del Toro executive-produced Splice, which I was mixed on but has things going for it.

LG: He produced Rodrigo y Cursi, directed by Alfonso Cuaron’s brother. He’s also on pre-production of a stop-motion Pinocchio film that he’ll co-direct. Tough that could still end up in the unmade category as stop-motion is at a low point for audience favor, which is unfortunate because I really loved ParaNorman and we both like Coraline.

MO: I’m hoping that it gets made, because Del Toro’s love for outsiders and dark fairytales would really work there.

LG: And then there’s the projects we don’t know will happen. He’s doing a Frankenstein movie for Universal, but we don’t know when it’s going to happen or if. He wants Doug Jones and Benedict Cumberbach to star, and he wants it to be a Miltonian Tragedy and adventure film that plays up the religious and tragic elements.

MO: Sounds beautiful, let’s just see it. Some of his influences are on Karloff’s sense of tragedy and Christopher Lee’s sense of emptiness, and he wants to combine those characteristics. He’s also influenced by Frank Darabont’s original script that was unfortunately made into a terrible movie by Kenneth Branagh.

LG: He’s also working on an adaptation of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

MO: Vonnegut has not really been a good source for films. George Roy Hill’s adaptation of that novel has fans…

LG: I've seen bit's of it over the years, it is just okay.

MO: While Keith Gordon directed an adaptation of Mother Night that has fans, and Jonathan Demme made an enjoyable adaptation of Vonnegut’s short story “Who Am I This Time?” for TV. But every other Vonnegut film is pretty much terrible. Slapstick was terribly adapted into a Jerry Lewis movie, the film of Breakfast of Champions went straight-to-video and is really bad, and there’s a short film of “Harrison Bergeron” called 2081 that gets the tone completely wrong by being portentous rather than satirical and playful. I feel Del Toro’s would be closer to the tone, at least, but it’d be a difficult adaptation.

LG: The fantasy/reality elements of the book might be interesting with him, but I don’t know if he could do it well unless he changed things that would annoy Vonnegut purists. (NOTE: since we recorded this, it has been announced that Del Toro is pursuing Charlie Kaufman to write the script. This makes a lot of sense as Slaughterhouse-Five really requires someone who is naturally adept with unusual plot structures of the kind that Del Toro has never even tired. Kaufman has written some of the most unusual scripts to come out of Hollywood in the last decade and a half)

MO: He also planned on adapting Drood, based on the novel by Dan Simmons that’s itself based off an unfinished Charles Dickens novel. It’s a bit of a murder mystery having to with an opium addict and an uncle in love with his nephew’s fiancée, I believe. Could be interesting, and I understand Simmons’ book incorporates stuff that has to do with Dickens’ life. It’s planned with Universal, but we’ll see if it happens.

LG: There’s something called Saturn and the End of Days, which is about a boy walking back and forth to the supermarket and seeing the end of the world on the way. It’s an original project, which have historically been an amazing sign, but his original scripts take a long time to get made.

MO: He’s planning on producing a new adaptation of the Disney Ride The Haunted Mansion, let’s just forget about the terrible Eddie Murphy version.

LG: We already did.

MO: Well put. This is to be based on the Hatbox Ghost, one of the more obscure ghosts in the attraction, which was there when the ride premiered in the late '60's, and it was supposed to be very frightening. I’ve been on the ride a few times, and I’ve never seen this thing because it was taken out of the ride shortly thereafter.

LG: At one point he was planing to do a trilogy of videogames, and he wants to be the “Citizen Kane of games”, but the developer for that went bankrupt. He was planning on producing an Incredible Hulk TV show, and he was waiting for an unspecified famous writer to be available, but we’re not sure if this could happen anymore after Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk became so well-liked.

MO: He’s also planning on another show he’s producing for HBO. It’s called Monster, it’s based off a manga. Neither of us are manga guys, and we don’t know what this is, but it has his name on it, so we’re interested. If it gets made.

LG: That’s the key clause. He also wants to direct a segment of the planned third Heavy Metal movie, and he loves the original incarnation of the French comic that Moebius curated, not the ugh-worthy thing most people are familiar with these days. But we don’t know what’s going on with this thing. I know Robert Rodriguez is godfathering this.

MO: He was planning on producing a new Van Helsing movie with Tom Cruise starring, but we’ll see. He’s producing a new Beauty and the Beast, though there’s so many of those. And then there’s the ones we know that’ll never happen. He wanted to direct new versions of Stephen King’s novels Pet Sematary (King's misspelling, not ours) and It. The former was made into a pretty-OK film in 1989, the latter into a cheesy miniseries mitigated by Tim Curry’s performance in 1990. He could do both of those, but he’s booked pretty solid.

LG: He has a Justice League Dark thing planned, with misfits of the DC Universe that'd be headed up by John Constantine (who had that slightly underrated Keanu Reeves in 2005), Swamp Thing, and the Specter, among others. It’d be Warner Bros., He claims that it's still very active, waiting for the availability of a “big writer,” but WB would certainly be doing the regular Justice League movie first, and that's not coming out anytime soon.

MO: Basically, we’re worried about when Del Toro sleeps, but we’re excited to see anything he does.

LG: There are things we want more than others, but if he makes it, I’ll be first in line. He is truly one of the most interesting auteurs out there.

Roundtable Directory:
Mimic (director's cut)
The Devil's Backbone
Blade II
Hellboy (director's cut)
Pan's Labyrinth
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Unmade Del Toro
Pacific Rim

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Hellboy II should not exist. The first film had a fan base, but middling box office, not to mention the bankruptcy of the studio which financed the film, made a second outing seem unlikely. But Guillermo Del Toro kept tinkering with ideas and eventually he was able to get the film set up at Universal, reportedly through sheer force of will, not to mention some leveraging of the critical clout he accrued on Pan's Labyrinth. But was all that effort worth it? Does Hellboy II improve on it's predecessor? I'm Loren Greenblatt and joining me for this discussion of Hellboy II: The Golden Army is Max O'Connell of The Film Temple.

Max O’Connell: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a sequel only a select few were clamoring for, but those who were clamoring for it were correct.

Loren Greenblatt: Oh, it is delightful. The film came out in 2008 and was a little overshadowed by Iron Man and The Dark Knight, along with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. Now a lot of us, myself included, were immensely disappointed by Indy IV, but for me Hellboy II erased my disappointment completely. The film is in much the same vein and gave me the pulp adventure fix I didn't get from Spielberg. I know some people will find this controversial, but I'm gonna say it: As much as I truly adore The Dark Knight, I prefer this film.

MO:…I’m not going to get into this argument again (NOTE: we did, and we had to edit that out of the conversation’s transcript). Let’s talk about Hellboy II.

LG: They're both doing new and interesting things with the genre, but while the Nolan film is mostly a natural evolution of the trends of the time, Hellboy II is a 180. A rebuke of all the dark cynicism of modern superhero and post-9/11 blockbusters. It has dark moments, but in the context of pure whimsy. It opens in 1955, and John Hurt’s Professor Bloom is raising a young Hellboy (who, adorably, thinks Howdy Doody is real). Bloom tells Hellboy a bedtime story about the Golden Army, which is a group of mechanical soldiers created by elves to battle humanity and his industrialist encroachment of nature. The whole exposition scene is done through CGI wooden puppets, and like to think this is Hellboy’s imagination of the story. It gets the exposition across (war happened, elves regretted it and broke the crown needed to control it, prince of elves wasn’t happy) but it’s delightful to watch. And yes, I noticed when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part I stole this idea.

MO: Yeah, that’s the best part of that particular film, but it’s not as good.

LG: And I love that Hellboy’s thing of mispronouncing words started as a kid: he pronounces “indestructible” as “industable”. Then we get these wonderful gear-credits before we meet the most sympathetic villain in all of Del Toro’s films.

MO: Prince Nuada, played by Luke Gross (Nomak from Blade II), is unhappy that the humans forgot about the elves and destroyed most of the forests, has decided to repair the crown, reclaim the Golden Army, and fight back. He’s not a bad man- he’s fighting for his dying culture- but he’s doing bad things. Humanity has not exactly respected his people.

LG: Humanities ability to reject anyone it sees as different is a huge theme here. Hellboy is still not happy being an outsider who has to hide, and he’s going to make his presence known. I love that he has to deal with the real world now. It’s man vs. nature again, but nature is fighting back. It's a very different film tonally, It’s lighter and zippier, but no less complicated and sincere.

MO: Since John Hurt died in the first film, Jeffrey Tambor is the new boss, and he still has a wonderfully contentious relationship with Hellboy.

LG: It’s played a little more for laughs here. Hurt was Hellboy's real father figure and now comes Tambor as a kind of step-dad whom Hellboy just has no respect for. The harder he tries to get Hellboy in line, the more he regresses emotionally. The first film dealt with how these monsters dealt with being outcasts, this one deals with how they fair in the spotlight when Hellboy decides to reveal himself to the public. This was probably inevitable. Hellboy's greatest aspiration has always been to be just an ordinary guy.

MO: And Abe (Doug Jones, voicing the part this time) is horrified, because he knows this isn’t going to work out, while Liz (Selma Blair) is horrified because she’s used to being stared at and hurt by normal people.

LG: And this puts a lot of tension on her relationship with Hellboy. It’s a bit cartoonish and exaggerated, but it’s fun and it fits the tone of the film very well. Liz needs Hellboy to grow up, and there’s more urgency to it because she learns early on that she’s pregnant.

MO: There’s also more push against Hellboy. As he fights for humanity, they don’t accept him. He saves a baby, and the mother screams at him and asks him what he’s done to the baby. He gets stuff thrown at him and people call him a freak.

LG: He’s a very conflicted guy. He’s a demon from Hell, sent ostensibly to bring the apocalypse, but because of his upbringing, he was brought up to love people. But there’s always that sheet of glass between them, and it really bothers him. His need to be loved becomes so obsessive that it’s self-destructive.

MO: Liz points out that they’re just not going to accept him, so she and Abe will have to be enough. There’s a sense that they’re more comfortable with each other at this point. In some of the arguments between Hellboy and Liz, she’s on fire (she’s pyrokinetic), and that’s just something that’s kind of accepted.

LG: Yeah, she’s more casual about her powers now. She’s learned how to control it, but when she gets angry, it still comes out. It’s a bit like if the Hulk went through anger management.

MO: There’s also a great scene with Abe and Tambor walking through the halls while casual monster stuff happens in the background of the Bureau, and they’re not paying attention to it at all. Abe’s explanation for something weird when Tambor does glance back at it: “Oh, it’s Friday.”

LG: That sequence does have a bit of a Men in Black/Ghostbusters feel.

MO: That’s astute, because like Men in Black, these are just people doing their jobs, and sometimes not doing it very well. Plus, Danny Elfman does the music this time, and there are tones similar to his stuff in Men in Black.

LG: And there are wonderful monsters. There’s a large sequence in what’s called a Troll Market. It’s like the Tattooine Cantina sequence turned up to 11. All of these creatures are well designed. There’s a fish guy who sells fish to eat…

MO: Which Abe is mortified by. There’s the troll that has a baby thing on his side that keeps making fun of him (it’s like a humorous Total Recall homage). And when Hellboy apologizes for scaring the baby, it says, “I’m not a baby, I’m a tumor”.

LG: There’s a creature who runs a map store, and his head is shaped like a cathedral. This thing is bursting at the seams with imagination.

MO: A lot of this is Del Toro getting the chance to run wild with delightful showmanship in monsters. It actually reminded me a bit of Evil Dead II. Nuada’s troll guardian Wink has a mechanical hand that crawls by itself at certain points. And the fight between Hellboy and Wink has moments of great slapstick humor that shows Raimi influences. Hellboy has a cigar that gets smashed: “That was Cuban! Now you pissed me off!”

LG: It’s kind of like a riff on the sunglasses action movie thing, where the bad guy breaks the hero’s sunglasses, and then we know shit just got real. It’s very funny.

MO: One of the big changes amidst all the weirdness- we got rid of that useless audience-surrogate character. I understand that the actor was unavailable because he was doing something on Broadway, but I can’t imagine Del Toro minded. Mr. Studio Note, as we remember him, didn’t really add much.

LG: There would have been no place for him in this narrative. Now, the Tooth Fairies in general are very much like a Raimi or Looney Toons thing, where the tooth fairies are constantly crawling up people’s legs and, when they’re smashed, they splatter on the camera in a really fun and inventively gooey way.

MO: Del Toro has said that his favorite movie of all time, though, is Bride of Frankenstein, and you can tell considering how much he sympathizes with these monsters. He actually plays a clip of it on one of Hellboy’s TVs after he gets rejected, where Karloff’s monster yells “We belong dead!”. These people don’t have a place to belong, except with each other. That feeling was present in the first film, but it’s amplified here.

LG: I’m really glad they changed up the tone. If it had the same gothic feel as the first, it’d feel repetitive. Del Toro’s at a different point in his life. The first film is more about finding yourself and trying to get into a relationship, and this one is more about maturity. It allows the characters to progress, unlike what happens in most superhero narratives where people are just sort of frozen in time.

MO: And there are moments of inventiveness that I really love that play into the story. Nuada has a twin sister name Nuala, and there’s a bit of a yin-yang thing. She’s very sweet, but she and Nuada have a thing where if one of them is injured, they both feel it. Nuala has a connection with Abe because they have telepathic powers, and Abe falls in love with her almost instantly.

LG: That would be annoying in another movie, but it’s justified here because of the way Abe works. He’s such a sweet, inexperienced and innocent guy that I’d believe him falling in love that quickly.

MO: And his awkwardness trying to court her is the best thing ever. He has giant contact lenses for his big eyes to get rid of the goggles he needs to see outside. And there’s a wonderful scene between him and Hellboy. Liz is angry at Hellboy, who feels really rejected, and Abe doesn’t know how to talk to women. Abe is playing a CD of classic love songs, and the two of them get drunk together. One of the songs on the tape is Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You”. Now, I hate Barry Manilow…

LG: Me too.

MO: …but this moment of them drunkenly singing out of tune to “Can’t Smile Without You” filled my heart with joy.

LG: It’s one of the most wonderful surprises in a film full of wonderful surprises. It’s borderline surrealistic to see this blue fish-man and a giant devil get drunk and sing Barry Manilow. It’s adorable.

MO: We also get another new character, Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane), who’s interesting because he’s ectoplasmic energy within a mechanical suit (with mandibles, no less, because Del Toro loves bugs). And he’s German. Hellboy doesn’t like Germans. He makes a couple of cracks about Nazis that are in poor taste, but Hellboy can be kind of a dick sometimes, so it’s just the character’s actions that are in poor taste, not the film itself. He does not like Krauss’ sense of order.

LG: He’s another in Del Toro's line of clockwork men.

MO: But there's more to him. After (Spoilers) Hellboy is critically injured, Liz rebukes him for not being human anymore, but Krauss finds his inner humanity, and they’re able to save him. (End Spoilers) But to the same extent, there’s some part of Krauss that is right in his criticisms of Hellboy, because His macho thing is pretty over-the-top. When they’re in the roll market and Hellboy beats up on everyone, a lot of it is unjustified.

LG: Yeah, he’s going over-the-top. He loses his temper. Del Toro indulges a bit here, but he’s taking the piss out of macho stereotypes, as Hellboy’s methods too often aren’t effective. I also want to talk about some of the monsters, some of the most sympathetic ones Del Toro ever put on the screen. Wink is wonderful, he’s just a big nerdy misfit, like Hellboy, but he’s too introverted, and he compensates by being brash. We have this elemental plant creature borrowed from Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, and a precursor to the giant monster city destruction we’ll see in Pacific Rim. Hellboy has a moment where he has to kill the creature, and it’s kind of sad. Del Toro doesn’t see monsters as evil, but as animals. We learn that this is the last of its kind, and Hellboy understands, but he has to kill it to save people, and he’s really conflicted over his decision. The only crime this thing committed is existing in a world without a place for it, something Hellboy can certainly relate to.

MO: And as it’s killed, blood starts turning into moss, and it spouts flowers all over the place. There’s something beautiful about it, but it’s also very sad. This is also Del Toro’s best action yet.

LG: This is a guy who took to action very well, but he’s very good at not repeating himself. It was kung-fu in Blade II, it was wrestling Hellboy, and here it’s a very fluid mix. Hellboy is slower, Nuada is faster. And it’s very inventive. Hellboy flips around in chairs like Jackie Chan, he kills monsters while holding a baby like Chow Yun-Fat, and there’s also light comedy that recalls Chaplin and Keaton. It’s very fluid- Del Toro uses pans and dollies to keep everything in the frame, and he doesn’t cut a lot. The choreography is wonderful, too.

MO: The film has my two favorite fights in any of Del Toro’s films. One is with the Golden Army, which is this great Harryhausen-esque thing because even though it’s CGI, there’s something of a stop motion quality about their animations.

LG: I do like the design. They’re like eggs that open up into these robots with fire inside them. And I love that even though they’re mechanical they seem to feel pain, and they scream like train whistles.

MO: Hellboy and Krauss fighting against them is a lot of fun because they have to take them apart one-by-one, Hellboy with brawn, Krauss by possessing one of them. And then we learn that they can reconstruct, which leads to the next fight. In order to stop them, Hellboy has to challenge Nuada to a fight. It’s heavy-handed guy vs. a quick guy, and they’re fighting over a gigantic gear set. Del Toro uses it well to have Hellboy fall in the gears (Cough–Modern Times–cough) and hide and come back up on another one.

LG: There’s great levels to play with, and it’s very dynamic and fluid.

MO: Going back to thematic stuff- Abe’s justification for protecting Nuala is that she’s alone in the world, and he has to help her. She’s like him. And the fact that Liz and Hellboy are willing to go to the ends of the earth for each other is central. It may lead to something really terrible. In this film, it leads to the only truly great set-up for a sequel I’ve seen in any comic book movie ever, and it comes naturally in the story and not after the credits, so all the rest of you superhero movies can eat it.

(Spoilers from here on out)
LG: The first time Hellboy and Nuada fight, Hellboy is stabbed with a spear that breaks off in his chest, and we learn that it’s a magical fragment that slowly inches towards his heart, and any attempt to remove it brings it even closer. This gives a chance for a nice reversal, because in the first film, Liz turned into a damsel in distress by the end. Here, she has to be the hero, and she’s very internal, so it’s a great way to push her character to take charge. They go to Ireland to find Nuada, they go underground, and they meet the Angel of Death.

MO: Played very well by Doug Jones, in another first-rate performance.

LG: It's another great creature. Its eyes are in its wings. And the Angel of Death says that she’ll save him, but Liz needs to know that he’ll bring about the apocalypse, and that Liz will suffer more than anyone else because of it. But she doesn't care about the consequences, because she loves him. It sets up the sequel wonderfully. He is a demon sent from hell, and the idea that sets up where the hero will be either the villain or have to make the ultimate sacrifice. It’s an extremely bold choice, it’s unique problem for Hellboy, and bravo to Guillermo for finding a way to set this up that doesn't stop the momentum of the film or feel tacked on. In fact the knowledge that Hellboy will one day go through all this, I think, changes the way we look at the ending, particularly the last scene where they all quit.

MO: It’s not an in-joke, it’s not fan service. This is absolutely natural for who Hellboy is and how this has to end.

LG: But we’re not sure if it’s going to. These movies don’t cost a lot, blockbuster-wise, but they also don’t make an outrageous amount. I think Hellboy II could have made more, but it did come out in a very bad time.

MO: Two weeks after WALL-E, and a week before The Dark Knight. Unfortunately, it was only going to do so well. We are hopeful that Del Toro will get a chance to finish his, though he’s gotta hurry up, because Ron Perlman is 63.

LG: Luckily with Hellboy it’s easier to do things with stuntmen because of all the makeup, but he’s getting up there.

MO: Not that we’re afraid that he’s going to drop dead, but he is the only person who can play this part. Who else could deliver those lines? A great Bride of Frankenstein reference as Jeffrey Tambor promises him a cigar if he stays out of the spotlight: “Cuban good. Being seen bad.”

LG: And there’s something else of note at the end as Nuada dies, asking Hellboy if it’s going to be “them (humans) or us”, and Hellboy can’t answer him. I don’t think he has an answer.

MO: And this happens because Nuala, for the good of the world, kills herself. It’s a beautiful moment of self-sacrifice, and it’s a throwback to the emotional ending that didn’t quite work in Blade II.

LG: And I like that this gives more emphasis to fantasy than the religious themes of the first one. It gives it a different flavor. I have no idea what they’ll do for Hellboy III, but I can’t imagine they’d repeat the same thing again.

MO: It’s a pure, fun film, and it’s one of my favorite superhero movies.

Loren's Grade: A

Max's Grade: A-

Roundtable Directory:
Mimic (director's cut)
The Devil's Backbone
Blade II
Hellboy (director's cut)
Pan's Labyrinth
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Unmade Del Toro
Pacific Rim