Sunday 29 June 2008

Hellboy: Sword of Storms (2006)

Given that Hellboy II: The Golden Army looks like being the film of the summer, at least on the basis of a slew of surprisingly promising trailers for Hollywood output, it's definitely time to do some homework. I rewatched Hellboy a week ago and came to the same conclusion I came to the first few times around: it's fun but flawed, and while it does improve with repeat viewings it still isn't what it could be. Given that Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy was involved, and it was made by Guillermo Del Toro, an awesome filmmaker and about as big a fan of the series as could comfortably be imagined, it really should have been something more than it was.

Now that Del Toro has achieved both commercial success and critical acclaim and even Hollywood studio execs have to admit that the man knows precisely what he's doing, my hope is that Hellboy II will end up being what Hellboy should have been. He already has the cast and the understanding of the material and now he has the budget. The potential is huge and I'll be there on the first week for sure. In between Hellboy and Hellboy II came a couple of animated movies and a short. The feature length releases were Sword of Storms and Blood and Iron, and the very short short was Iron Shoes.

Sword of Storms takes Hellboy back to mediaeval Japan, which is pretty cool. Everything ties to a legend about a Daimyu who promises his daughter to the gods of thunder and lightning to end a war, only for her samurai boyfriend to mess things up by defeating them. Honour is lost and so the daughter is sacrificed and the samurai turned to stone, but he is at least given the sword of storms first. Back in the modern day, a professor is possessed by demons to reclaim the sword but the samurai's spirit is still associated with it and fights back.

When Hellboy, investigating the remnants of that battle, picks up the sword of storms he is transferred back to mediaeval Japan where he gets to quest through a bunch of encounters tied to Japanese folklore. I recognise some, from the fox lady on down but not all of them and I miss the explanatory notes that I used to get with Urusei Yatsura videos from Anime Projects. They would have been really useful here.

The film is animated well if basically, with the cinematography, or what passes for it in the animated world, capable if not particularly spectacular. The story doesn't hold up to too much analysis, with the folklore elements most interesting. Most of the main cast from the movie, who were perfect for their roles, reprise those roles here, including Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones. There's no John Hurt but no part for his character: he returns in Blood and Iron. The new character is Prof Kate Corrigan, voiced by Peri Gilpin, best known as Roz in Frasier and she returns for the other animated films also.

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