Hellboy II: The Golden Army

This second installment in the Hellboy series is a very interesting blend of modern science fiction. traditional fantasy and story book styles, humor, and romance. It blends a number of issues which are popular in modern fantasy and science fiction, all with the same whimsy seen in other similar films such as Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Passing

One of these popular themes is the notion that the spirit world, as any kind of alternative fantasy world which acts as the flipside of the normal everyday world, is fading into history. In most cases, it is because the magic or spirit of whatever kept that world going has diminished, and it is fading into oblivion. In Hellboy 2, this is true of the world of trolls and elves and goblins who used to coexist with humans. The back story of this coexistence is told in the film’s prologue, done in amazing, imaginative marionette stop motion sequence which depicts man’s desire for conquest and the conflict this caused between men and elves and goblins.

This is something also seen in Pan’s Labyrinth, where the Faun and other creatures that Ofelia meets are but the last relics of an ancient underground kingdom which is lost to history. Additionally, this is seen in Lord of the Rings, where the elves are literally retiring across the ocean. At the end of that trilogy of books or film, it seems that humanity will take over Middle Earth and will eventually be unchallenged as its sole dominant species.

This is contrast with other modern pieces of media, like the X-Men comics and films. In these, it seems that the growing number of super powered mutants are a new race of spirit folk who have arisen by virtue of fate and science to replace humanity, whose limited nature is coming to an end.

The Exile

The passing of elf-kind in Hellboy 2 is not without protest. Nuada, prince of the elves, is attempting to resurrect the enchanted ‘golden army’ of the ancient war. This unstoppable army of robots would be unleashed and would destroy the human world utterly. Nuada represents one of two outcast characters in this film– the other being Hellboy himself. This dichotomy brings them into repeated conflict. Nuada is a character who is exiled from his people because he believes that the world is not good enough for him. His sister, Nuala, with whom he shares an intrinsic bond, is far less convinced. She laments the passing of her people, but if it must be so, she is gracefully resigned to that fate.

Nuada uses the tools of his world to fight– various incantations and enchanted weapons all of which complicate the obvious draw of bringing a sword to a gun fight. His return marks controversy in his royal court. His appearance and dissention leads his father to call for his execution. He responds by assassinating him. In doing so, he has committed what, in classic literature, was considered the worst sin of all– betrayal. In Dante’s Inferno, the innermost sanctums of Hell were reserved for betrayers like Judas Iscariot, Brutus, or Cassius. Whatever else his intentions may be, it is at that point that Nuada vilifies himself utterly. It is this betrayal that brings the seriousness of his threat to his sister’s attention, causing her to take drastic action against him.

The Pariah

Where Nuada has disassociated himself from the world, the world has been disassociated itself from Hellboy. Both characters are outcasts, both exist in conflict with the rest of the world. The difference here is key, that in the case of Hellboy, other people have decided that he should be expelled from society and kept in hiding. Nuada’s separation from society was based upon resentment and knowledge of what having direct contact with the outside world can do. Hellboy has no such knowledge. He understands on the cognitive level why he must remain in hiding, but he doesn’t like it, and doesn’t understand how breaking that rule will feel. Seeing his opportunity, Hellboy comes out of closet society has forced him into.

Once he has bitten that apple, Hellboy discovers just how painful it is. He sees how small and afraid people are, and how further conflict between himself and the human world is now inevitable. No longer can he serve in secret. He and his friends, including a cloud of vapor, a merman, and a pyrokinetic woman, must now operate in the sun– in full range of the scorn and fear of everyone they meet. Like the X-Men, Hellboy must pay the price for being different. In the end, he and his friends choose to resign from their positions at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. While not stated, this becomes a type of exile. They choose to isolate themselves from the world just as Nuada did. Their intent may not be to return with conquest in their heart, but ample foreshadowing indicates that they may have no alternative but to follow Nuada down that road.

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