Perhaps not quite in the same blockbuster league as 'The Dark Knight' or 'Indiana Jones', the return of Ron Perlman as the supernatural, shaved-horned and cigar-munching hero Hellboy will nonetheless delight fans of Guillermo del Toro's 2004 original.

Sandwiched somewhere between 'Die Hard', 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Star Wars', 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army' carries on from the original with the sequel proving just as fresh, entertaining and lively.

Layers have been added to the original's characters with a series of well-fleshed out subplots, meaning 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army' could (believe it or not) be seen to operate just as successfully as a buddy movie or a romcom as it does a comic book adaptation or action-fantasy.

The movie opens in a 1955 army base where a young Hellboy is being told a story by his father (Hurt) about an ancient battle between humans and a Golden Army, controlled by the King of Mythical Figures. Fought over a number of years, the Golden Army was controlled by a golden crown, which was later broken into three pieces when a truce was called and the Golden Army stood down. Angered by his father's lack of desire to take over the world, the King's son, Prince Nuada (Goss), went into exile. Until now.

Step forward to the present day and the Prince has come out of the shadows to track down the pieces of the Golden Crown. When the pieces are placed together, he who wears the crown can reawaken the unbeatable Golden Army and make them do his will. After tracking down two pieces, Nuada's plan is interrupted by his twin sister, Princess Nuala (Walton), who escapes with the final piece into the arms of Hellboy and co. It falls to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, Hellboy's place of employment, to find out just what Nuada is planning and to stop him.

Meanwhile, there are a host of peripheral stories going on amid this good vs evil battle as Hellboy battles relationship issues with girlfriend Liz (Blair) and a new German psychic boss (McFarlane), whose ectoplasmic being is contained in a diver's suit. Elsewhere, Hellboy's sidekick Abe Sapien (Jones) falls in love, while there's also an Irish element in the movie, with the climactic scenes taking place by the Giants' Causeway in Co Antrim.

Director del Toro lets his mind loose on the celluloid canvas and his deeply imaginative vision of a world of evil tooth fairies and devilish monsters is hard to resist. Set to next direct 'The Hobbit', one can only look forward to what he brings to JRR Tolkien's world.

Throughout 'Hellboy II' the juxtaposition of fantastic looking heroes with very human concerns and characteristics draws the viewer in and grounds the film enough for one to feel something for the characters.

Yes, the film is essentially a good vs evil tale, however the script is tight and all-encompassing enough to ensure that scenes involving Hellboy's relationship woes are just as well-weighted as the action segments.

If the film does come in for criticism, it's that Luke Goss' (yes, the Luke Goss formerly of Bros fame) Prince Nuada simply isn't evil enough and fails to really engage, as an adversary, with Perlman's Hellboy.

That said, this is fine popcorn fare, which will prove as enjoyable for adults as it will for kids of all ages.

Steve Cummins