With "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," Mexican director Guillermo del Toro reenters the world of Mike Mignola's comic book series with mixed results. Flashier and noisier than 2004's "Hellboy," "Hellboy II" matches its predecessor in wit and action but falls short of bettering the earlier film, stumbling over clunky dialogue and cheesy romance.
In an unnecessary introductory scene set in the 1950s, Hellboy's now-deceased adoptive father (John Hurt) reads an adolescent "Red" a bedtime story. He spins the tale of the Golden Army, 70 times 70 mechanical brutes created during a war between the magical beings and men. The Army is controlled by the possessor of a golden crown, at this time a king who realized the err of his ways after seeing the destruction caused at his hand. A truce was made with the men (trolls and elves would get the forests, men would get the cities), and the crown was broken into three pieces. The king's son, Prince Nuada, exiled himself from his father, disagreeing with him and believing that the race of men was weak and would lead to the world's end and vowing to return when his people truly needed him. Now that men have replaced much of the natural world with shopping malls and parking lots, Nuada is ready to make his return.
Thus, in this second installment, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his buddy Abe Sapien (a fishlike creature played by Doug Jones) and his fireball girlfriend Liz Sherman (a brooding but ineffective Selma Blair) are called in after a mysterious man destroys an auction hall with flesh-craving creatures in order to steal a piece of the golden crown. The unlikely and bizarre heroes must track down the missing third piece before the evil Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) completes the crown and commands the Golden Army to do his will: destroy the human race. Also fighting on the humans' side is newcomer to the Paranormal agency is leader Johann Krauss (voiced by Seth McFarlane), a whisp of smoke contained in a mechanized suit that resembles a diving bell.