Hellboy II was a bit different than I'd expected. I'd expected more of the first movie, which would have been nothing but a good thing. The Golden Army, however, took on a different tone, with mixed results. Its dialogue was sharper and lighter, assumedly because the characters had already been established, but I felt it lost Hellboy's blue-collar, world-weary attitude that made him so likeable. The snappy pacing and banter felt like the film was trying to be sleeker and more accesible, more like the mainstream Spiderman or Iron Man films, something it in no way needed to do. The heavy, oppresive, Lovecraftian tone of the Hellboy I was something that distinguished it, and while the Folklore side of the Hellboy world was something that's entirely fair game for a movie (I'm glad, in fact, that it moved in this direction) I felt the spirit of the Hellboy books had been violated in a way the first movie did not. The Golden Army just felt too light.
Even in the Hellboy's folklorish adventures, he's taking on entities like Baba Yaga (who is scary) a cursed family of eastern European werewolves, or ramapaging, megalomaniacal homunculi. They're strange, dark, and otherworldly, and their humor comes from Hellboy's unfazed attitude and straightforward sense of right and wrong. Not that the new movie did not have some of these elements, it simply didn't do them as well.
Also, The Golden Army feels more like a superhero team movie, like X-men, especialy with the addition of the ectoplasmic Johannes Krauss, than the continued adventures of the red, loveable, Beast of the Apocalypse. B.P.R.D., an excelent spinoff title from Hellboy, is a team comic, Hellboy is not. It felt like Del Toro was beginning to lean in that direction.
All those things being said, I still recommend the movie. Del Toro's fantastic imagination is on full display once again, and some of the movie's set peices like the Angel of Death, or the Miyazakian forest god, are worth the price of admission alone. The sheer exuberance and creativity demonstrated gives me real hope for the future of fantasy films, especially the commitment to old-school prosthectics and physical effects, which, let's face it, still look better than CGI. Several days after seeing the movie, I want to go see it again, which is probably the truest measure of my real feelings towards it.