** SPOILERS **
One thing I like about the movie reviews of James Berardinelli is that he digs into the craft more so than other critics and if he has major issues with a story that he can’t reveal because it would be a spoiler, he’ll give you a link to clink for more details. And such was the case for what he considered two large problems with Heckboy II.
If you’ve seen the film, tell me what you think about his complaint:
From a plotting perspective, the film makes two large missteps during its denouement. Polished screenplays shouldn't have such readily identifiable flaws, which makes me wonder whether something important was deleted from the finished cut. Problem #1: Nuala's suicide kills Nuada. This is reasonable since the link between the two is well-established. But why wait until the end of the movie? If she's going to sacrifice herself, why not do it at a more meaningful time, like when her brother is about to kill the king? Or when he's about to take control of the Golden Army? Her ability to end his threat at any time with one well-placed knife thrust to her chest makes the entire movie seem kind of pointless. In reality, Nuada was never much of a danger. Problem #2: Liz turns the crown into slag. If she can melt the crown, why not offer this option to Nuala earlier? The elf princess could have turned over her piece to Liz, Liz could have destroyed it, and the Golden Army's threat would have been neutralized. Both of these instances represent sloppy screenwriting. It's hard to ignore such issues; they damage the integrity of the ending and that, in turn, makes the movie less special. Hellboy II is solid entertainment, but it's a shame such blemishes prevent it from achieving a higher level.
This kind of complaint reminds me of my first reaction to The Wizard of Oz. If all Dorothy had to do was click her heels to go home, why the hell didn’t the Good Witch tell her that in the first place in Munchkinland? I would’ve ripped that bitch’s wings right off!
I still remember my mother trying to explain it to me:
“That’s just the way it is.”
“Because why? It makes no sense.”
“Because otherwise we wouldn’t have a story, now would we?”
I hated that answer. And I hate that answer today. That will never be a good enough answer for any story. One must have a solid reason rooted IN THE STORY, rooted IN THE CHARACTERS.
Case in point with Heckboy II. In that moment when Nuada was making his move to kill the king, Nuala could’ve screamed “STOP!” He stops. He turns. Nuala has a knife pointed at her chest. She tells him that the moment he kills their father, the king, he will die, too. She won’t let this happen. Nuada’s intrigued. He confronts her and calls her bluff. He dares her to kill herself. She can’t do it. She drops the knife and runs away. Nuada turns back around and slays the king.
Problem solved. Nuala was capable of threatening Nuada with death, but she just couldn’t do it. Can you blame her? Suicide’s not exactly an easy decision. If we had a moment where we were made to see how difficult that choice was for her, we wouldn’t ask “why.”