Having liked the first movie so much, it was only natural that I would see the sequel, but I was quickly disappointed to learn that my favorite character from the first movie, John Meyers (played by the adorable Rupert Evans), was not to reappear. We learn in this one that Hellboy had him transferred to Antarctica (That’s a snow movie I would enjoy watching.)
We also lose David Hyde Pierce as the voice of Abraham Sapien – you probably won’t care too much because his replacement Doug Jones does a fine job of mimicking his vocal patterns, though it still feels like a blow. Plus, there’s no promise of romance at all in the movie (or so we think…) seeing as how Liz and Hellboy are already a couple when the movie begins (despite the fact that their hookup is ambiguous at the end of the first film…in my opinion).
Well, that’s my two cents. You may be asking at this point where the brother and sister are. Well, there aren’t any. Just kidding! There are a brother and sister and the incestuous feelings are heavily implied, and are not figments of my active and twisted imagination. And, in case you question my reliability in that respect, I can offer you confirmation from director Guillermo del Toro and actor Luke Goss. I didn’t listen to all of the DVD commentary because I didn’t want to hear things that I didn’t want to hear (ignorance is bliss), but I listened to enough to get official corroboration. The fact that the movie was listed on Television Tropes and Idioms’ page for Brother-Sister Incest was my first clue; and also the reason why I in the end bothered to watch it despite not feeling intially inclined. It also seems to be the main thing I liked about it (aside from the message about the environment and some fun special effects. Oh, and the baby that was really a tumor. Hee! That got me.)
The brother and sister in question are not the main characters of the film. They belong to the “Golden Army” part of the title.
You may have noticed from the title of this post that my recommendation is tentative. Well, that’s because I don’t think this movie is great. But the brother-sister relationship I’m going to talk about, the brother-sister relationship which got me to watch this movie in the first place, is great enough to warrant sitting through the rest of it. You know, if you’re into that kind of thing, which obviously I am. And especially if you use the VLC media player (like I do) which allows you to watch a movie at any speed of your choice, and which allowed me to watch the boring parts at 2x. The rest of the movie, which is to say, the Hellboy part, is lackluster. Bottom line: see the first movie for Hellboy, see this one for Princess Nuala and Prince Nuada.
Well, my latest entry about Phineas and Ferb added to the diversity of subjects I have been handling in that it is a cartoon, and in that the male(s) in question are younger than high school age. I’m crossing into new territory today as well: the brother and sister of which I am going to write are…not human. That’s right. They are…Elvin (elfin?), I believe. Some manner of elf-like creature. Exciting, right? They are more human like that Santa’s elves, but less human-like than the elves of Tolkien. They have white hair and very white (almost bluish) skin, and yellow eyes. That’s about all that makes them different. Elf royalty have lines on their faces, I’m not sure what that’s about except to make them cooler than everyone else.
It’s time for a plot summary! I’m going to lay it out bare. So, spoiler warning and all that. It’s all rather predictable, if you ask me. But not in a bad way.
So, there is a legend about a golden army. A long time ago, everyone lived together: elves, humans, and all manner of other creatures. But humans were pits of insatiable greed, and this, as you can imagine, caused some discord. The elves and the humans battled, and the humans did pretty well. So the elf king (sorry, I forgot his name), (after an offer from the forger and at the behest of his son, Nuada), had a golden army forged and one ring to rule them all…wait, I’m getting mixed up. It was a crown that controlled the army. Anyone of royal blood (this is important, so remember it!) can wear the crown and wield the Golden Army. Well, the Golden Army crushes the humans like dry leave beneath their feet. The king is overcome with remorse, and makes a pact with the humans: the humans will stay in their urban centers, and will hold onto 1/3 of the crown. The elves will stay in the forest and hold onto the other 2/3. The king’s son, Prince Nuada, is not a supporter of this treaty, so he runs off to live in exile, vowing to return when the elves will need him most. Well, he does return and not a moment too soon. In fact, one has to wonder why he didn’t appear around the time of the industrial revolution.
He steals the human third of the crown as its being auctioned off, slaughtering everyone in the auction house using tooth fairies (and not of the Rock/Dwayne Johnson variety, and most especially not him in a pink dress).
He then returns to court. Even though the elves agree that the situation with the humans is dismal, they would rather fade away that reawaken the army and its horrors. Nuada is unwilling to yield is position, so his father (an honorable “man”) is forced to punish his son in the capital sort of way (even though this will also kill his daughter, as you will learn).
Nuada’s sister, Nuala, agrees with their father. Well, Nuada isn’t having any of that. He kills his father and enough of the royal guard to take control of the room. I know what you’re thinking: brrr; patricide, that is ice cold! Well, yeah. But you can see that Nuada doesn’t really want to do it and loves his father. He feels he has to and it is in some ways self defense at this point. So, he takes the crown piece from his father, but Nuala has the last third, and she flees.
It’s getting good, right?
Well, Nuala runs into Abraham Sapien, the aquatic member of Hellboy’s team, and he proceeds to fall helplessly in love with her. She clearly likes him – he’s a nice guy, sensitive, not human, likes poetry – but if you ask me, liking him back is just another way of running away. You don’t find gills sexy unless there’s something else going on. Plus they do some sort of telepathic exchange where he learns her story and she learns just about everything about him and everything that he knows. I suppose it’s easy to care about someone when you’ve gone through something like that with them.
Nuala explains that she and Nuada are twins. And more than that: they’re linked. “I can’t explain it,” she says. Awesome! It would be exciting enough if all elf twins were like that, but we’re looking at some kind of anomaly here. Squeeeeee!!!!
They can’t read each other’s minds exactly, but they come very close to it. And whatever happens to her body happens to his, and vice verse. They only show this in terms of wounds and hurt, but how can you have pain without pleasure? The scope of the film and mainstream release didn’t allow us to explore the question further. Nuala also explains that Nuada will always find her (they don’t have to touch to communicate the way that Nuala and Abe did.)
Well, she’s right! And it’s very exciting. She can feel him coming, and though she runs and hides the crown piece and burns the map to the resting place of the Golden Army, the first thing she does is hold up palm and close her eyes. It’s like, she wants him to find her, but she doesn’t want it. Her love for him is never in question, but she’s simply too good to allow him to carry out his plan. She’s an idealist too, like her father, just not the same kind as Nuada. Their ideals are not the same. No, they are. They differ on one point, really.
Well, Nuada kills the guards without impunity, but he’s sweet to the dogs. It’s hard not to like him when he does stuff like that. As a treehugger, a large part of me would have enjoyed watching him bringing everyone to their knees. He’s a conservationist, essentially.
Nuada reads Nuala pretty easily, but he’s interrupted before he finds the crown piece. He kidnaps his sister (tricky business when everything you do to her happens to you), and demands the crown piece in exchange. He also injures Hellboy in a way that will require his help to fix him, and then makes his demand for the crown piece. I’m still not quite sure why he thinks that plan will work, but it does. Because Abe, like Liz, and like Hellboy, is not an idealist. He’ll try to stop Nuada, but he’d sacrifice the whole world to save Nuala, against her wishes and common sense. Liz is on the same page. I don’t admire that kind of sacrifice. (Well, maybe I do a little bit. I’m just too pragmatic for it.)
Well, the final battle takes place in Ireland (score another point for the elves and Nuada) at the resting place of the Golden Army. Abe Sapien, smitten, steals the crown piece and gives it in exchange for Nuala’s life. Nuada puts the three pieces together, awakens the army, and is about to wreak havoc when the pesky Hellboy challenges his right to control the crown. You have to read the fine print, but Hellboy is apparently of royal descent in that hell dimension from which he hails, so the challenge must be met. Nuala is of little help to Nuada and my cause in this scene, encouraging Hellboy’s rebellion. But her agenda is still the same: stop the Golden Army. It’s not like she’s worried that Nuada will be killed in the fight: Abe knows that any harm that comes to Nuada will come to his sister, so he mandates that Hellboy not kill Nuada. The fact that she encourages the fight is not indicative of her feelings towards Nuada. He has to be stopped; it’s got nothing to do with how much she loves him.
So, they fight. Nuada is a bad ass fighter, even though he has to use a weapon when Hellboy doesn’t. In a fair fight (perhaps in an elegant fight, I mean), Nuada would have won. He won earlier, though Hellboy was drunk and knew he couldn’t hurt Nuada because it would hurt Nuala too. But Hellboy employs guerrilla techniques, and being basically a rock, he’s not easily defeated. Nuada is more skilled, but Hellboy does win the fight (foul, I say!). He spares Nuada as he has been instructed, and in fact, I don’t think Hellboy hates Nuada. Nuada is not a traditional villain: he’s not evil. He’s just a little ruthless. He has a contrary agenda, even though his agenda might in some ways be right. And when he preaches on the ingratitude and intolerance of humans he hits some real notes with Hellboy.
Well, Nuada doesn’t consider himself defeated even though Hellboy is already putting the crown on (again, foul I say!), but Nuala sees him coming up from behind and stabs herself in order to stop her brother. She feels it necessary to go for the kill shot; I guess she felt like a leg or an eye wouldn’t do the job, or maybe she’s like Jackie-O in The House of Yes: “I never meant to maim you, I only meant to kill you.” Maybe she’d rather see herself and her brother dead than maimed. She joins Angele and Jackie-O in the if-your-brother-is-going-somewhere-and-you-don’t-want-him-to-go-then-you-should-kill-him club, but she’s the only one to kill herself in the process. This is either a selfless act, or a selfish act. This way she gets to begin eternity with him. Or that’s my headcanon, anyway.
I don’t want to romanticize death or go all Romeo and Juliet on you. But in fiction, there can be a tragic beauty to it. I think you all know what I mean. When one lover dies, it’s terribly sad, usually, but it’s a lot less sad when they both die. There’s a twisted romance to it. Some people believe there’s a finality to it. Personally I don’t, and often in the canon of the story there canonically isn’t a finality to it. The elves in Hellboy seem to be very spiritual.
Well, Nuala’s final moment is with Abe, where she allows him to confess his love (but does not confess her own, note!). Nuada manages to stand a few moments longer: he gives a warning to Hellboy and then turns to his sister. And then turns to stone (as their father did and as Nuala does). I like the stone thing. It reminds me of The Queen of the Damned.
Well, I don’t think I need to say that I ship Nuala and Nuada. I’m sure you realize that that’s a given.
Nuala was quite enchanting. Probably because she’s the good twin they didn’t go so much for the just-crawled-out-of-Hell look. The actress (Anna Walton) is 12 years younger than Luke Goss’ Nuada, which might also have something to do with it.
Now, I realize from this no-frills plot summary, the incest subtext isn’t immediately obvious. The symbiotic/connected thing might give a person (me) some ideas, but it’s not necessarily indicative of unwholesome desire. Well, never fear. This is the part where I go into a little more detail.
The story behind the Golden Army is digitally animated using strange figurines. However, Nuala and Nuada are still indicated. We see Nuala looking at Nuada as he exiles himself. It’s rather interesting that they chose to show that instead of Nuada giving Nuala a look before walking off.
The next time we see them together, Nuada is coming to court. He guards demand that he surrender his weapon before entering, and he refuses, but then his sister appears and repeats the request in sweet way, and he says, “For you, sister, anything.” Can I just say that I love the way he says “anything”. Um, I don’t know, it’s just fabulous. It also sounds incredibly sincere. And suggestive…But apparently it’s not true, unless all of the events of the movie could have been averted if Nuala had simply said, “Brother, please do not awaken the Golden Army.” I guess we’ll never know.
He ignores her while at court. The father does too: it’s hard to imagine that he would sentence his son to death knowing that it would kill his beloved, virtuous daughter as well. I guess elves take no prisoners. Nuada doesn’t look at her once while he takes the court over and fights the guards, even though he knew she didn’t support him. So either he could sense that she wasn’t doing anything, or he knew that she wouldn’t do anything. He seems moderately surprised that she’s run off. I was surprised he didn’t chase her himself. She wears very burdensome kimono-like garbs that would surely have inhibited her running. So she can’t run, she can’t hide, but he doesn’t go after her and instead prolongs her capture? No matter.
I’ll talk about their clothes now, which match a little bit. The director points out in the commentary that during the fight scene in the library, Nuada and Hellboy are a bit red, and Abe and Nuala are blue, but I thought it wasn’t very noticeable. Nuala and Nuada’s attire was a lot more matching than the color play (yes, I know that sentence is bad grammar, but that’s how I want to say it). Nuala remains in her royal elf garb. I guess she knows there’s no point in hiding. But considering the fact that the elf royalty have matching outfits, Nuala not changing is almost like a symbol of unity. Do you see what I’m trying to say? If not, it’s because my point is very weak.
In the first scene of her, at court, she and Nuada are in matching outfits, colors included. She changes out of the red into the blue for her scenes with Hellboy and team. Then she and Nuada have changed into the royal tan outfits for the finale. Hmmm…well, we don’t know what happened during the time it took them to get from Washington D.C. (right? Or is it New York?) to Ireland, but we do know they’re not wearing the same clothes (wink, wink).
Nuada appears on scene just as Abe is introducing Nuala to Hellboy. He doesn’t pay much attention to his sister; he is much more concerned with winning the fight. He throws a green-colored bean at Hellboy, which as you can imagine doesn’t scare him too much. (Oh, God, not a green bean! Pink or blue or purple, but not green!) But Nuala knows what it is: en elemental, a forest God. The bean reaches water and grows into a giant stalk with swatting arms. It causes some real traffic problems, but I’m still not sure it was very scary.
Nuada becomes a devil on Hellboy’s shoulder, tempting him not to shoot it. It’s the last of its kind. It’s beautiful. But Hellboy does what he has to. As soon as it’s done, it’s hard not to wonder whether it was a mistake. The stalk puts down roots and becomes a giant tree spreading flora around the city block. It’s quite beautiful, and perhaps a reminder how much more beautiful nature is than city buildings.
Nuada and Abe have their scene once they escape back to Headquarters, talking about poetry and whatnot. But they separate for whatever reason, and Nuala retires alone while Abe sits up talking to Hellboy about how much he loves Nuala and mooning after her. It’s kind of richly and rewardingly ironic that Abe sits around singing Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” when it’s so much more appropriate a song for Nuada and Nuala.
This is when he get our moment of Nuada arriving. Nuala is sitting on her bed. She looks up, stands up, then extends her hand out in front of her, palm open and forward, and she closes her eyes as we hear Nuada whisper her name. It’s lovely. I really do get this sense that she wants to see him, but she has to stop him, which means she has to keep the crown piece from him. When she tells Abe that Nuada will find her – “he always does” – she certainly isn’t too cut up about it. It’s not that she’s resigned or afraid even.
Well, Nuada finds her alone in the library and everyone else is unaware that he is there. This is probably the best scene between them. I don’t even really know how to go about describing it, the way they are with each other. It certainly doesn’t seem like Nuada has been in exile for millennia. I can only assume he’s been back to visit. He knows she hid the crown piece in a blue book, but he doesn’t know which one. He tells her she always looked so beautiful in blue. He strokes her cheek, and she doesn’t recoil…in fact, she closes her eyes again. I don’t care what anyone else says, that confirms for me all I need to know: being touched by him was pleasurable for her. Sometimes stroking a cheek is done as an act of intimidation but in that case the person who is being intimidated doesn’t usually close their eyes and lean almost imperceptibly forward into the caress.
When Nuala calls Abraham by his name, Nuada freaks out on her and slices her cheek. I don’t think he sliced it out of anger at her, though that’s how it appears, he did it to keep Abe from coming closer towards them. He was making a show of threatening Nuala. Obviously he wouldn’t really kill her, because that would be suicide.
There’s one moment during this library scene where Nuada is looking down at something on the table, and Nuala is standing behind him. He turns around to face her, and they’re so close… It was her choice. She was the one standing close to him. She was the one who let her face be so close to his.
Considering the fact that he just killed their father, she’s rather un-hostile towards him. She’s a little big angrier at the end, when Nuada is going to have Abraham killed. But you can’t blame her. If my brother killed my father and is about to kill my new friend, I’d be a little brassed off. And he’s not exactly gentle with her. But if he was too gentle, we’d forget he was the bad guy.
There isn’t much in the way of Nuala-Nuada business for the rest of the movie. Only two things really: as Nuala is dying and Abe confesses his love to her, she says that it is beautiful, but that’s all. She’s not in love with him! I would have liked to see her look at her brother as she was dying, but that’s OK. Nuada, though, looks at her during his final moments. I was worried he wouldn’t, but then he did. He expresses no anger at her for doing what she did. I think he admires it. His last words are unselfish: they’re a warning to Hellboy. Hellboy even catches him as he falls.
So, I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is whether Nuala returns Nuada’s incestuous feelings. I say most definitely. I don’t think she can help it. She resists his plan, but she doesn’t resist him very well. Yeah, he’s kind of scary sometimes, but not in a bad way. And come on, Nuala and Abe? He’s aquatic, and wormish, and yeah, he’s smart and sensitive, but he’s not going to be winning any fights. As Anna Walton puts it: “No one seems to be happy for fishy and me.” Well, include myself.