Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Guillermo vs. George
In 1977, George Lucas's Star Wars: A New Hope introduced us to a galaxy far, far away. This galaxy contained strange beings, exotic planets, a rebellion, a princess, a farmboy...
Take out the "exotic planets" bit, and George includes all the elements of a fairy tale, one of the oldest genres of story. In fact, most story experts will tell you (and excuse them for being snotty, it's their nature) that Star Wars itself is based on the archetypal Hero's Journey structure outlined by Joseph Campbell and originating in the ancient mythology fairy tales were based on.
But aside from George's storytelling aptitude in 1977, his ability to bring the story to life with incredible visuals made an overnight hit out of a Space Opera.
Fast forward thirty years. George became overwhelmed with the visual nature of his stories and forgot to love his characters.
(Writers note: forget to love your characters, and they'll bite you back every time.)
Gone are the fresh takes on familiar structures. We were stuck with Anakin's inability to save the universe from...policy reform. Also gone were the familiar character constructs; Anakin wasn't a farmboy, or a cowboy...just an overgrown punk with a light saber.
But I digress. Sad, sad times, but plenty of room for someone else with a love for fable to step in.
Mr. Del Toro first attracted American attention with Cronos, and has since gone on to Hollywood set pieces such as Blade II and Hellboy, followed by the amazing Pan's Labyrinth. The latter served as a showcase for Guillermo's love for myth and fairy tales, especially when combined with elements of the grotesque, the gothic, and the macabre.
He and Poe would have gotten along great.
And now we have Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In this installment, the non-human world (consisting of elves, trolls, etc.) feels that the human world has encroached on their forest territory, and the less-than-peaceful Prince Nuada plans to raise the Golden Army to conquer the humans and retrieve their terf. But to raise the army, he requires certain objects...and the plot rolls on.
Hellboy, naturally, is assigned (as much as he ever is) to stop him with the aid of his flame, Liz Sherman (pun intended), and C-3PO-esque buddy Abe Sapien (played by Doug Jones, but we'll get to him later). They meet Nuada's peaceful twin sister, Nuala, who bears a resemblance to the Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, but in a nice way.
And so on and so forth...really, it's all secondary to the fabulous visuals. Doug Jones, who played the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, also provides the bodies for the Chamberlain and the terrific Angel of Death. Jones has found his niche in Hollywood as "the person inside the suit." Not surprisingly, he got his start as his university's mascot...
Fairy tales have been a beloved and much-used springboard for a lot of modern literature and film. C.S. Lewis, for instance, used fairy tale constructs in his Chronicles of Narnia. My current theory is that the idea of the fairy tale has aged with us into the comic book saga; supernatural characters and events out to save the kingdom, if not the world.
Hellboy II is the ultimate popcorn flick, made above-average by Guillermo Del Toro's attention to visual detail. Del Toro's next project is The Hobbit I & II, which I'm that much more excited about after seeing Hellboy II. I would love to see Del Toro take a stab at one of the Narnia installments, particularly The Magician's Nephew.
And let us hope we'll never find ourselves with a prequel explaining how Hellboy's parents found themselves in Hell...