The plot, in brief, concerns the plans of usurped King Balor’s son, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), to awaken the dormant Golden Army, pitiless clockwork uber-warriors commissioned and later mothballed by his horrified father. To prevent this, the prince’s twin sister, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton) – to whom he is telepathically linked – elicits the help of Hellboy, his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and a newcomer to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, Johann Kraus, an ectoplasmic mystic housed in a metal diving suit. Together, they battle against the rebellious Prince, seething swarms of ‘Tooth Fairies’, towering troll henchman Wink and the terrifyingly beautiful Angel of Death.
Perfectly cast, Ron Perlman (below) plays Hellboy as an anti-superhero, a blue-collar guy who is happier chugging beers and eating pizza than fighting evil. The fanboy indulgence of the spectacular action scenes sometimes arrests the plot’s forward momentum, but what del Toro calls ‘the bloodline of moral choice’ runs through the richly imagined story like a scarlet thread. Crucially, no distinction is made between the humans, the tame ‘monsters’ of the BPRD and the glamorous ‘freaks’ they are charged with policing. All are capable of the whole gamut of ‘human’ emotions. A thinking person’s ‘creature feature’ graced with two contrasting love stories – Abe Sapien falls for the pale and interesting princess; Hellboy’s hesitant girlfriend Liz is unable to tell him she is pregnant with his child – ‘Hellboy II’ is also a heartfelt plea for bio- and cultural diversity.