HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY begs any number of referential mash-ups to be used as description of its outlandish tonal and stylistic qualities. It's a little like a romantic and sophisticated live-action Ninja Turtles movie imbued with a cracked version of H.P. Lovecraft's monster storytelling. It's a feature-length version of STAR WARS's Mos Eisley Cantina mixed with a scrappy, proficient passion for creature design reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen. It's also kind of director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro's HELLBOY (2004) wrapped in a blanket of his PAN'S LABYRINTH. This sequel is all these things, but none of them can accurately capture the singularity of a movie which, in some ways, stands alone in its ability to capture the crass and literary luridness of reading a comic book. It's filled with gross creatures bursting with humanity, dark poetry, and slapstick comedy; in one scene, an argument between Hellboy and Johann Krauss, a formless gas contained in a mobilized suit, escalates to the point of Tom-&-Jerry-like violence.
As Hellboy himself, a heartfelt anti-hero who regularly eliminates supernatural threat as an agent for the U.S. Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense alongside girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and comrade Abe Sapien, Ron Perlman again embodies the role with the kind of pathos and humor that one can only expect from a horned, red-skinned Hell-spawn who loves kittens and acts like a hardboiled detective who happens to watch TV and drink a lot of canned beer. HELLBOY II's rather interesting antagonist, Prince Nuada, isn't just an evil dude. In the mold of the complex villains typically found in Hayao Miyazaki's animated fairy tales, his intentions of restoring control over Earth to an Elvish race by regaining the key to unlock the indestructible Golden Army are at least based on a legitimately noble sentiment before megalomania kicks in.