Over the weekend I saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the summer's latest super-hero movie, and, until The Dark Knight arrives in theaters on Friday, the season’s most soulful one. That’s because Hellboy's director is Guillermo del Toro, creator of Pan's Labyrith, The Devil's Backbone, and the first, 2004 Hellboy film. Del Toro works on our imaginations by inserting his dreams into ours; his visual vocabulary includes such things as solemn faces with displaced eyes (they peep from hands in Pan's; from wings in Hellboy II). He’s the artiest commercial filmmaker this side of Todd Haynes working right now (I intend that as a compliment), and I hope you stuff Hellboy II into your summer moviegoing.
Just as David Lehman has taken the time in recent editions of The Best American Poetry to point out uses of poetry on TV shows, I will add that this movie uses poetry as a plot-point: Hellboy II—a romance every bit as much as it is an action-film—includes a verse from Tennyson's "In Memorium"; a small chunk perfectly suited for a scary movie, beginning with the couplet, "When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick/And tingle; and the heart is sick." Del Toro adds to the literariness of the movie by having a main character hide a crucial desired object in the pages of a volume of Tennyson, and then, Poe-like, make it almost impossible for the other characters to find by hiding the book in full view in a crowded bookshelf. If you think there's nothing but dumb noise in summer blockbusters (Hellboy II was #1 at the box office this past weekend), think—and look—again.