Del Toro won rave reviews for his work on 2004's Hellboy and its sequel Hellboy 2: The Golden Army in 2008, with both films garnering box office sales of more than $200 million (£125 million).
But creator Mike Mignola insists he can't imagine the director accepting the same role on a new movie - because he's so busy trying to juggle all the films he wants to make.
Mignola says, "Guillermo, who I love, in every interview there's a new story on what his next movie is and he honestly believes he's going to do all these things. But last I heard he said, 'I'm never gonna get back to Hellboy.'
"I'm not surprised because he won't live long enough to do a tenth of the movies he's told me he's going to make."
With a huge fan-base fueled by the original Mike Mignola comic books and the DVD of the semi-hit 2004 film anticipation runs high for Universal’s all-out sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army--especially in light of director and ultimate fanboy Guillermo Del Toro’s Oscar winning masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. But beware this new Hellboy considerably ramps up the body count triples the creatures and steps up the volume. As you may recall Red aka Hellboy (Ron Perlman) was born in 1955 the apparent result of a unique mating ritual between the Nazis and the Devil. As years went by he escaped his grim pedigree by becoming a reluctant cigar-chomping force for good. Hellboy II opens with a flashback in which his nominal father-figure Professor Broom (John Hurt) reads him a Christmas Eve bedtime story about the creation of the Golden Army something SO evil it had to be deep-sixed in a deal The Crown cut with the human race. Cut to a half century later and this bedtime info comes in handy as Red is now an employee of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense where he works with pyrotechnic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and fish-man Abe Sapien (Doug Jones). Things heat up when he faces off with the evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) who is looking to take over um the world. This all leads to lots of confrontation and eventually Ireland--home of the Golden Army and site of the inevitable battle to once again make the world a safer place. Whatever success Hellboy--and now it’s sequel has--is at least partially due to Perlman’s dry funny interpretation of the role. This is a butt-ugly comic book hero with a rich sense of humor and a deep love for kittens and cigars. Perlman plays it big and wry for all its worth. Best (non-CGI) sequence in the film has the drunken Red teaming up with bluer-than-blue Abe Sapien for an abysmal but high-spirited rendition of Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You”--a karaoke singer’s dream. Of course Red’s main gig is mayhem--creating it and ending it--which Perlman tackles with great aplomb. Blair returns in style as the fiery (literally) girlfriend who may have some blessed news. Also back is the aforementioned wonderful Doug Jones as Abe (this time handling his own vocals) and Jeffrey Tambor perfectly cast as their flustered boss. Goss is evil-personified as the bad boy Prince although he sounds like one of those dubbed actors straight out of a cheapie ‘50s sword and sandal epic. Del Toro whose imagination for all things fantastical seems to love spreading new monsters all over his own unique cinematic fantasy lands. Although the multitude of visuals almost become an assault--and even tiring after a while--they are technically at least a breathtaking achievement. His “cast of creatures” include the ominous Angel of death and Nuada’s army of helpers (a gross ape-like lieutenant and singular cockroaches among them). They are fun but so outrageous they don’t approach the truly haunting alternate world he created in Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro’s command of the camera is equally impressive and the battle/fight scenes are staged for the full-on visceral intended effect. It’s an ambitious if a bit over-cooked Hellboy sequel. Despite its flaws Del Toro disciples will almost certainly be delighted with what he has managed to get on screen but converts may be few and far between. And what fun the director will have as he heads into Lord of the Rings territory by taking on The Hobbit.
The Hobbit, Hellboy II, a lifetime achievement award … it seems Guillermo del Toro is unstoppable. When the Oscar nominated director postponed his Los Angeles Film Festival appearance from Monday to Thursday we couldn’t wait to talk with him about his upcoming projects. Instead Hollywood.com caught up with del Toro at the Saturn Awards where he was being honored for his life’s work. "It's premature but I accept it anyway because I love the f*cking trophy," he told us.
Nothing will be off limits for Thursday night's festival talk, "They can ask anything. I'll be brutally sincere if I can."
Hollywood.com took the opportunity to get some brutal sincerity on his attachment to The Hobbit and the upcoming Hellboy II, in case anyone wants to follow up with him on Thursday night.
1. The Hobbit creatures will be very Pan's Labyrinth:
"Yeah, but remember one thing. The terrain that is covered by the trilogy is a very defined area. The Hobbit goes different places, goes different things. To give you an example, Shelob is a spider but the spiders of Mirkwood are completely different. So I plan to bring myself to The Hobbit, no doubt about that."
2. No one is cast in The Hobbit yet. Not James McAvoy, not after Wanted opens, nothing.
"There is a lot of interest in the acting community to be in the movie and there's a lot of speculation from fans and professionals. But the reality is right now, whatever name is brought forth, it's a speculation. Just that. We have not locked into a name because we cannot lock into a name until we write the screenplay. It's not about viable, it's not about box office. I think we know, Peter [Jackson], Fran [Walsh], Philippa [Boyens] and I are going from the exact same side which is we'll cast whoever seems to fit the pages. We know the precedent on the trilogy was Elijah Wood who was a very well known actor and on his way to becoming a star, but not necessarily, he wouldn't have been a superstar back then. I think he was cast right for the part and we're doing the same."
3. The Hobbit is not Lord of the Rings for kids:
"I never think in those terms. For me, Blade II is a family film. I'm really thwarted that way. I feel that obviously being faithful to the source, I would love for this to be a movie that can be enjoyed by fathers and sons, by mothers and daughters. I would love in that sense, but very often when you use the word family film, it can conjure watering down things. I believe that Tolkein had, in the last third of the book, I wouldn't say an edge but had a somber tone that normally would not conjure the term family."
4. He's just getting started on The Hobbit:
"Barely started. We have had preliminary chats. We have had a chat where we sketch out what we think of the two movies, but there's no writing. There is note taking. There is breaking down the novel. There is a lot of work already being done on our part but real preproduction will not start until late July."
5. He'll be racking up frequent flyer miles to New Zealand:
"I'm going to be going every two weeks. We start preconceptualizations both in New Zealand and LA. I open the conceptualization shop in August. I travel to Weta to start doing some more research and development and I'm going to be going to New Zealand every two weeks or so. Spend a week there, spend a week, for me it's like commuting to Burbank. I'm used to these things."
6. By the way, Hellboy II: The Golden Army comes out next month:
"I love the movie. I love the movie. The thing is, I felt this way with some of the movies I've done, not all of them, where you know you love the movie before it comes out and you can shout it to the wind regardless, because no one can predict either the immediate future or the long future of a movie. But I can say safely that regardless, I love the movie. It happened to me with Pan's Labyrinth. That went and was successful. It happened to me with Devil's Backbone which came out and was barely noticed except by the critics, but went on to become a movie that people know about and discover on DVD. I feel that way about Hellboy II."
7. And now it's the artistic follow-up to Pan's Labyrinth:
"I think that Pan's did that, Pan's became that movie that put me in a different view. Most people knew me for the more commercial movies. So I think that Pan's allowed people to realize that the same person was behind [both]. People tend to distinguish. They say, 'Oh, it's a Hollywood movie' or 'I like the Spanish language movies more' or this and that. I think this one kind of fuses both things into one. It has the same spirit and freedom that I have in the Spanish movies but with a much bigger scope."
8. Guillermo del Toro's creatures still fit in Hellboy's world:
"The universe, when you see the movie, is so much his world. I mean, the movie I think is tailored around Abe, Hellboy, Liz as characters and they have great character moments in the movie. The creatures are great but the greatest thing I think is the interaction when they have down time. The funny thing is, [Hellboy creator] Mike Mignola said, 'There are parts of the movie that are completely your world. They are independent of the Hellboy universe.' But it was not on purpose. It just happened."
9. Hellboy II makes Hellboy I look like Heckboy:
"It's tenfold better. Tenfold better in my view. It's crazier, bigger, freer and certainly creatively it was much more fun to make. As an exercise in production was as creative as the first one because the first one was $66 [million], this is $85 but the scope we Wanted was like that of a movie of $200 or more."
10. If you like Hellboy II, he won't be too busy to bring you Hellboy III:
"Well, don't tell my family, but the idea is if that happened, I would love to do it consecutive to The Hobbit. The first movie was 2004, second movie is 2008, so if the third movie is 2012/2013, it's not that far off."
Released from the underworld in 1944 by evil Russian puppet master Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) and a crew of Nazis as part of Hitler's plan to use occult powers to turn the tide of World War II Hellboy is rescued and raised by kindly Professor Broom (John Hurt). Years later in present-day Manhattan the big red demon (Ron Perlman who at this point must have spent more of his life in a makeup chair than out of one) smokes cigars tosses off wisecracks and fights otherworldly baddies for the secretive Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. He's joined by the water-dwelling Abe Sapien (played by Doug Jones voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and fresh-faced FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) the professor's designated Hellboy handler-in-training. When Rasputin resurfaces and unleashes a horde of evil spirits on the city in an attempt to finish what he started back in the '40s Hellboy and Co. (including fetching pyro Liz Sherman played by Selma Blair) must face the dark magician in a no-holds-barred supernatural showdown that (naturally) will determine the fate of the world.
All the digital enhancements and red makeup in the world couldn't make Hellboy a sympathetic character if the actor underneath wasn't appealing. Luckily Perlman fills the bill. Whether he's indulging Hellboy's adolescent jealousy of the burgeoning friendship between Myers and Liz (the angsty brunette is Big Red's lifelong object of affection) or letting a pair of endangered kittens tug at his heartstrings Perlman creates a character who is ironically very human in his contradictions. And his knack for tossing off zippy one-liners doesn't hurt either. Evans one of those Everyman-faced actors whom you're just sure you've seen somewhere before (but since his biggest U.S. credit to date is well nothing you probably haven't) is perfect as Myers--one of those Everyman-faced comic book fellas whose job is to be as earnest as possible. Meanwhile Blair never quite makes Liz as enchanting as she should be to earn the adoration of both Hellboy and Myers; she shoots off a lot of soulful-eyed looks but that depth isn't reflected in the rest of her performance. As for the villains only Roden's evilly charismatic Rasputin can really be considered a character (creepy Nazi leader Kroenen never speaks and Biddy Hodson's scheming Ilsa has just a handful of lines) albeit an underdeveloped one.
Del Toro fans have come to expect slick moody action from the man behind Mimic and Blade II and they won't be disappointed with Hellboy. From gloomy dripping subway tunnels to stark Russian graveyards Del Toro has created a more convincing comic book world than almost anyone else who's brought a graphic novel to the big screen in recent years (Spider-Man's Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer's X-Men flicks are notable exceptions). The lines colors and composition of his shots seem like they could be lifted right from Mike Mignola's pages and Marco Beltrami's eerie/ominous score makes Hellboy's world feel all that much more dangerous. The effects aren't half-bad either. Someone on Rick Baker's creature team seems to have a grudge against squid (every one of the demonic beasties Hellboy battles is positively bristling with tentacles) but the fights are fast furious and fun. Del Toro who also wrote the script does let the film stray perilously close to Daredevil-like cheesiness in a few spots ("All us freaks have is each other!" Abe declares at one point) and the climactic confrontation stretches out a little too long but overall Hellboy is a well-paced bit of adrenaline that's guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
The year is 1914. Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is a lowly museum cartographer and linguistics expert who knows the whereabouts of Atlantis. He isn't taken seriously however until an eccentric billionaire (voiced by Fraiser's John Mahoney) funds an expedition based on Milo's late grandfather's journal about the lost city. Milo joins a motley group of mercenaries led by Commander Rourke (voiced by James Garner) on a dangerous trip through the ocean where they discover a thriving civilization ruled by the King (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) and his beautiful warrior daughter Princess Kida (voiced by Cree Summer). It's Atlantis and it's been kept alive by a crystal energy hidden deep within the city which thrills Commander Rourke--his evil plan is to steal the crystals. Now it's up to Milo and the others to save the city from certain doom.
Once again Disney has gathered a talented cast to lend their voices to the characters. Fox easily handles the hapless hero Milo and the animators capture Fox's essence especially in Milo's oh-so-familiar hand gestures. Garner's fairly menacing vocal quality in the evil Commander Rourke is equaled only by the majesty of Nimoy's Atlantean King. However it's the team of explorers each with their own special abilities that really make Atlantis fun. There's demolition expert Vinny voiced in a monotone by the hilarious Don Novello; creepy geologist Mole voiced by Corey Burton in a combination of French and Peter Lorre-ish speak; and Cookie the expedition's lard-lovin' cook voiced by the late Jim Varney. Together they represent the collective "sidekick character" Disney films love but this time it's done with a surprising and delightful twist.
The creators of Atlantis decided try a different approach to the Disney animated formula. Instead of the usual hero-must-find-his/her-way-in-the-world-and-get-the-girl/boy directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale went for the pure adrenaline of an action-adventure story paying tribute to the great Disney adventure movies of the '50s. Also conspicuously absent are the songs so common in recent Disney films. Some die-hard Disney fans may not like that but it's actually a refreshing change of pace. The one thing however that detracts from the film slightly is its look. The animators were going for a particular style--merging computer-generated imagery with traditional animation and giving the film a flat dark comic-book look. This works well for some scenes but when the audience gets to Atlantis that lush Disney look we've seen in films like Tarzan and The Lion King needed to be there.