At its high points Hellboy II: The Golden Army feels like a retread of his better work
Sean Cameron 2008
In the four years since the first Hellboy film was released things have changed. Director Guillermo Del Toro has a lot of clout following the critical and commercial success of Pan's Labyrinth and used it to give Hellboy, his favourite comic-book character, a second chance at the big screen. With his usual Hollywood composer Marco Beltrami busy, Del Toro went for veteran superhero composer, Danny Elfman.
Elfman has quite the comic book CV harking back to his first comic movie with regular collaborator Tim Burton Batman in 1989. The theme entered pop culture almost instantly becoming the archetypal comic soundtrack. Sadly his Batman theme has overshadowed Elfman's other attempts at comic adaptations and Hellboy II is no different.
Throughout the score there is a feeling that Elfman is coasting. A feeling that extends across his recent filmography as evident in his work on the Spiderman franchise. His unique gothic sound has become tired after twenty years. In this case he adequately serves the picture itself, but as a standalone piece it mostly fails.
Marc Beltrami's Hellboy theme has been chucked, and it's understandable for a composer to make his own mark but the theme isn't replaced with any kind of anthem or fanfare. The score practically skips thought the titles not making an impact until the tingling metallic pulsing of third track, Training.
Fun can be had with the score: Hallway Cruise is a short snappy homage to 1950s B Movie sci-fi, reminiscent of Elfman's score to Mars Attacks. Unfortunately its work is quickly undone by incidental tracks such as Market Troubles and Doorway operating as little more than visual aids.
Elfman makes up for it with a few playful tracks. Where Fairies Dwell is a good example of the composer's ability to mix magical intrigue with dreaded darkness in the same track.
The biggest success is Elfman's ability to convey the onscreen fantasy in music. He shines with string tracks The Last Elemental and A Choice but it's hardly out of his comfort zone. Similarly, the climactic In The Army Chamber is what we come to expect from an epic Elfman track but ultimately, a tad repetitive.
At its high points Hellboy II: The Golden Army feels like a retread of his better work; making little impact and failing to work as an album in its own right.