Sunday, July 13, 2008

Guillermo del Toro and Lord of the Rings

I just got back from Hellboy II: the Golden Army. Once you get past the ridiculous plot, it is an excellent film. The actors do a remarkable job creating characters that seem real, even if the story does not, and which you can actually care about. The star of the film, though, is, without question, Guillermo del Toro and his film work and special effects. Del Toro channels the work that he did in Pan’s Labyrinth into Hellboy II, many of the creatures that he uses are quite similar, creating visual effects that are not just spectacular, but stand on their own as works of art.

In certain respects del Toro exceeds even Peter Jackson in his ability to use special effects in such a way as to add life and personality to film instead of taking it away. So it is befitting that del Toro is now working with Peter Jackson on a film version of the Hobbit, the prequel to Lord of the Rings. Watching Hellboy II, I was struck by how del Toro, even in this film, tipped his hand toward the Lord of the Rings as if he were already preparing for it. In the opening scene of the film there is a flashback to a battle from “mythological” times between men and elves. This battle sequence, artfully rendered by del Toro with stick figures, closely mimics the opening battle sequence in Lord of the Rings. The plot of Hellboy II, or the nonsensical dribble that takes its place, is very similar to Lord of the Rings. It involves elves and a dark object of power, in this case a gold crown that can be used to summon and control an indestructible golden army of robots. This golden army is a force of such destruction, that the elves that had it made in order to fight humanity, shrank back from it and hide it away. The villain, Prince Nuada, an elf sporting some wicked blades and some Matrix-like moves, wishes to gain control of the crown and take revenge on behalf of his people against the entire human race and it is the task of Hellboy and company to stop him. Luke Gross, who plays Prince Nuada, to his credit, manages to actually give some nuances to his character; he is probably among the most decent screen villains, out to destroy the world, that you will ever meet.

Lord of the Rings fans take heart; the Hobbit is in good hands and, if you are in need of a Lord of the Rings fix, I heartily recommend getting over to see Hellboy II.

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