"Hellboy II" Fires Up the Box Office, But Is It Better Than the First One?

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During the walk up to this week's highly anticipated opening of The Dark Knight and presumably the shattering of a few box-office records, Hellboy II: The Golden Army managed to take the No. 1 spot with $35.9 million. That's chump change compared to Iron Man, Indy 4, Hancock and Wall-e, but the victory must taste sweet for Hellboy Ii director Guillermo del Toro. Sony, the studio which released the original Hellboy in 2004, passed on the sequel, perhaps put off by the modest $23.2 million Hellboy opening in 2004. Bad decision. Hellboy was a hit on DVD, and del Toro's career is soaring thanks to Pan's Labyrinth and his upcoming job directing The Hobbit. Universal, going with talent (always a smart move), went to bat with del Toro on Hellboy Ii and saw the opening grosses nearly double, pushing it toward the $100 million blockbuster mark. The first Hellboy grossed only $59 million. Look out for a second Hellboy sequel. Up for discussion today, other than the Eddie Murphy issue — Is his his career tanking what with the laugh-free Meet Dave taking in a pitiful $5.3 million or is he just suffering a temporary setback — are these hellish questions:

Now that you've seen Hellboy Ii, do you rate it as better or worse than the original?

What scene in Hellboy Ii do you think best represents del Toro's talent as a filmmaker?

Which of the creatures in Hellboy Ii belong in the pantheon with the menacing marvels del Toro created in Pan's Labyrinth? I vote for the rampaging plant.

How much do you think Hellboy Ii will gross next weekend up against Batman and Heath Ledger's hellboy of a Joker? And while we're at it, do you think The Dark Knight — with its grim take on a comic-book hero — can open bigger than any movie has this summer (so far it's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at $126 million)?