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Hellboy II: The Golden Army 

There’s a scene in Hellboy 2 where Ron Perlman’s working-class demon cum superhero must do battle with a giant plant elemental. The elemental is a frightening and dangerous creature, and yet director Guillermo del Toro pulls off the difficult task of making the audience feel empathy for it. When Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), the villain who has pitted this elemental against Hellboy, tries to convince our hero he’s on the wrong side of the fight, the audience can understand that it’s not easy for Hellboy to pick a side in this battle. Making difficult choices, and not always in the way we expect characters in a comic book movie to do, is a recurring theme in the film. But then there are lighter scenes, like the one where Hellboy drinks beer with his best friend, a fishman named Abe Sapian (Doug Jones). They talk about love and sing Barry Manilow; it’s one of the best scenes in the film. Hellboy 2 tries to combine the arthouse fantasy of del Toro’s more personal films like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone with the commercial accessibility of his Hollywood action films like Blade II. The ending is a bit weak, and the movie probably goes on too long, but for the most part del Toro succeeds wonderfully. ***

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