Hellboy II: The Golden Army

In theaters.

Well, if nothing else, writer-director Guillermo del Toro can still create a gorgeous image. His creepy beasties are memorable and immediately identifiable, and he has a real knack for creating a striking tableau. But I’m a little concerned about the deterioration of his storytelling abilities. The Devil’s Backbone (2001) is rich with subtext, nuanced characterizations, and dramatic power. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) has a beautiful narrative arc with a devastating climax. Even Blade II (2002) has a darkly twisty plot and a surprisingly emotional finish.

But Hellboy II is silly even for a summer movie. It has no sense of momentum or peril and the weakest, most transparent conclusion I’ve seen in an ages. Predictability isn’t even the real issue. Inevitability can feel fated and tragic, but here it’s just stupid. The first big scene with the villain telegraphs exactly how he’ll meet his doom, and he could, in fact, be taken out at any point after that, without any muss at all. When the end finally arrives, it’s not triggered by anything, really, but the fact that the movie is on its final reel, which makes the scene ludicrously anticlimactic. That’s just bad storytelling. I wasn’t anticipating a masterpiece, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect something halfway decent from a guy with a Oscar nomination for best original screenplay on his résumé.