"While waiting in line for the screening of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I overhead someone say that Guillermo del Toro's latest is being seen as his audition tape for The Hobbit," observed Jonathan Pacheco in his review for The House Next Door. Of course, Del Toro already had the directing gigs for the two Hobbit films before Hellboy II hit theaters, but that won't stop audiences from evaluating the current parade of fairies, demons and evil elves with Del Toro's Middle-Earth-to-be in mind.
Needless to say, it's a narrow perspective.

It would make more sense to expect that these upcoming features will negotiate between the gothic horror of Pan's Labryinth and the blockbuster approach of Hellboy II. In the latter work, it's clear that Del Toro has more interest in placing these loony supernatural beings in relatively conventional action sequences, allowing the specificity of the characters to create a sense of ingenuity. Pan's Labryinth, on the other hand, offers a single package of storytelling: The art direction, special effects and even the violence directly relate to the drama. The best case scenario for the Hobbit films would be a happy medium: Glorious visuals that reflect Tolkien's deeply involving mythology.

Peter Jackson's trilogy succeeded by gradually drawing viewers into the world with small details, rather than trying to dazzle them with an endless barrage of lavish spectacles. Hellboy II does seem to adopt this approach, as it starts with an animated flashback, followed by scenes of the villain in his shadowy lair. Several plot twists unfold before Hellboy even shows up (as an adult, anyway), and a few more go by before he actually starts fighting people. However, a more significant part of the movie that should clue viewers into Del Toro's vision of The Hobbit arrives with the troll market, a strangely hilarious landscape of fantasy creatures straight out of Jim Henson's workshop. This alone should quiet those who have claimed the director doesn't like "heroic fantasy."

What's your take? Does Hellboy II serve as a good measuring stick for the upcoming Hobbit films?