Monday, July 14, 2008

Site Update . . . Oh, and Hellboy Still Rules

I guess that I'll have to apologize to the half a hundred or so people who read this blog on a daily basis - I worked massive overtime last week and it took me til now to get excited, or at least back to neutral, about blogging again. Actually, my traffic inexplicably spiked as I stopped posting. What's going on?

I finally made it to Hellboy II last week. I'm glad to say that it more than fulfilled my expectations. It's funnier, faster and more fiery than the first, and moves a great deal faster than the first film despite the fact that it's about 10 minutes shorter. Spider-man was one of the first really good superhero movies that I saw, but the sequel hit so much of the same ground that it suffered from a bit of ennui. (After all, being late for things and disappointing people is stressful in real life. Why would I want to watch it in a movie?) Thankfully, Hellboy II nips this potential problem in the bud by focusing less on our hero and more on the fantastical world he quickly finds himself immersed in. (I deign to mention that it's refreshing to watch a movie about a superhero who has no alter ego to be late for things and disappoint people.)

Much like so many fantasy movies from the 80s, Hellboy retains a very human feel despite the outlandish settings and events, mostly through use of visual effects and props whenever possible rather than use of straight CGI. Watching grumpy troll Mr. Wink lumber about is captivating, all the more so when you realize that the face is mostly animatronic and the troll's movement is provided the good old-fashioned way - by a guy in a big, sweaty rubber suit. Oh - and the troll's detachable claw of an arm? It's real, and it really shoots. It's just one example of a good marriage between modern computer overload and good old-fashioned imagination.

The film devotes the most time to its nonhuman characters. Jeffrey Tambor, for example, gets the short straw; despite some very funny lines and a good inferiority complex, he's nearly unecessary and essentially a tagalong to the far more interesting Johann Krauss, essentially the ectoplasmic bosom buddy to fishman Abe Sapien.

While the action in the first film was completely manageable and never overblown, the sequel suffers from a bit of fight scene overload, particularly in two large pockets near the beginning and the end. However, the action is uniformly exciting so this isn't much of a problem. Likewise, the director makes a couple of strange choices through the film (I'm still not sure about that opening), but at least you know where he's going. For the second time, the humor, wit and fun of this series make it a great deal more fun than much of the competition. Which isn't to say that some of this ground hasn't been mined to some extent - Iron Man, for example, is kind of a kindred spirit to Hellboy, but each sets itself apart in unique and wonderful ways. Hellboy II, like the character, is just so darn idiosyncratic and cooly-dysfunctional that it's hard not to enjoy yourself in its company.


In related news, I've changed my background color from the sickly tan I've been using in the past to plain white. I'm not a fan of overdone facelifts so it's unlikely that I'll ever change that much at a time. Ziggy Liberated still looks the most punchy of my blogs, but I don't yet have the yen to go so minimalistic. G'night everybody!

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