Danny Elfman has created some great scores. Lets face it, he is the composer of choice for gothic slendour and Hellboy II is a fine offering indeed. Recalling the beautiful choral arrangements of Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns, Elfman has crafted another gem of a score. Guillermo del Toro's film is a fantastical feast for the eyes and it needed a score capable of matching the visuals.
Fans of Marco Beltrami will be disappointed that none of his music from the first movie returns for the sequel. There are no obvious character themes but it matters not as the soundtrack flows quite well, telling a story all on its own. There are many different trademark Elfman flourishes that pop their heads. The bombastic, eccentric side of Elfman surfaces in "Hallway Cruise" and "A Troll Market" while the grandiose, romantic stylings we loved in his earlier works such as "Edward Scissorhands" are alive and well in the majestic track "The Last Elemental". If you have seen the film, you will understand the beauty of the track even more.
For an action movie soundtrack, Elfman's music is unashamedly beautiful and delicate in places. "A Big Decision" is quiet and moving and easily displays Elfman's penchant for childhood innocence in thematic composition. He will jerk the tears out of your eyes if need be. Subtle he aint but damn if he cant tug on those heartstrings. Yet his approach is not formulaic or stale. While other film composers such as Hans Zimmer simply take a score out of the freezer and microwave it to give a flavourless, processed soundtrack, Elfman always makes an effort to surprise. Hellboy II is not dominated by a main theme or frequent reprises of melodies. Instead it takes a more complex, darker gothic route more akin to "Sleepy Hollow" than "Batman" using a strong male choir to heighten the sense of forboding in this dark fantasy soundtrack. His string section is quite low and haunting as in "Sleepy Hollow", not soaring as in many superhero movies.
Like the film, the soundtrack is a magical, grand and outlandish creation. It showcases the best of both sides of Elfman, the carnival-esque and the heartbreaking. Its golden.
Verdict: **** (4/5)