Van Helsing (2004)
User ReviewsReview this title
The Eye Candy factor is high, though. Hugh Jackman as the tortured hero, filmed in the dark all of the time, makes us weak in the knees. Kate Beckinsale does magnificent physical feats while squeezed into a corset.
The story: Van Helsing (Jackman) is essentially a bounty hunter of supernatural monsters, a job he took on at the request of the church as apparent penitence for sins he cannot even remember. As a reward for his centuries of service, he hopes to make his way to Heaven instead of Hell.
Anna (Kate Beckinsale) is the last survivor of a family of Transylvanian vampire hunters. Her brother has become a werewolf and she is conflicted about whether he should live or die.
Naturally Anna and Van Helsing team up to rid Transylvania of the evil vampire overlord. Van Helsing has a tool kit Batman would envy, and Anna maintains an arsenal of monster-killing weapons that would make a survivalist proud. Between the two of them, the monsters don't stand a chance.
Put your mind on hold, suspend disbelief and intolerance for the occasional leap of reason, enjoy a slightly randy friar (Van Helsing's sidekick), and go along for the ride. Van Helsing is a great Sunday afternoon video.
Actually after the opening pastiche of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie, I thought this had the potential to be a 5 star movie. It was very atmospheric and had me hooked. However the film never really captures any sense of magic from there onwards.
The main body of the movie does go on a bit, and it could have done with some attempt to create engaging characters. Plot and story are not always necessary for fun movies, but you do need characters with a level of interest to capture the mind, otherwise you tend to find yourself not giving a s**t. I felt Van Helsing did verge into this territory, but for the most part it's so fast paced this doesn't matter so much. The points where it does try to introduce plot are the moments where it really does fail. In fact there is too much going on that is never really explained, and I think it would've been better not to have bothered at all, than use the nonsense Sommers resorts too. For example the attempts at backstory to Van Helsing. Better to have one of those interlude chatty scenes you have in the Indy films, where it establishes he's a dude, rather than the poor attempts at angst and pathos. Really bad was the moment he gets upset over Frankie's Monster. What the hell was that all about?
Hmm maybe I took that a bit seriously, but the movie knows what it is, why try be something else. I also thought that that masked ball sequence was a natural conclusion, the eventual finale at the castle felt like an add on, which lacked any real punch.
Far better was Van's introduction to Transylvania, with the benefit of some neat angles and panning shots, the crossbow battle with the brides was cool. The coach chase was exciting without being exhilarating, but kept the flow going, so it's a shame some more bad plot gets thrown in, especially when it was involving the underwritten Velkan. That's the film's main problem - overkill of characters, with little space given to any of them to evolve.
Finally a word on the CGI. I thought it was very good, especially the morphs that were used. The very first moment Drac starts to turn made me jump a touch, and when the vampires turns into their fanged, contorted state it looked pretty scary to me. The wolfman transformation, with the ripping flesh looked genuinely painful. At this point I was thinking the CGI was genuinely stunning. I'd have preferred the finale if it had just been Van vs Drac though, having CGI characters fight felt uninvolving, and Drac in snarly state was far better than the beast he turns into.
This is a movie to genuinely switch of the brain and enjoy. At times there's too much going on and perhaps a bit too much swinging about for my liking, but it's an adrenaline filled ride. I'd probably give it 7 out of 10.
I admit that the film runs a little to long, the chemistry between Beckinsale and Jackman leaves something to be desired, and the Frankenstein "monster" (though well-intentioned to give a nod to "Young Frankenstein") is really annoying. But the entertainment spawning from the hokey fun that "Van Helsing" is all about, makes these flaws so forgivable.
For me, I'll take the over-acting screaming Brides of Dracula, the silly homages to dozens of classic action and horror movies, the cheesy one-liners, and the not-so-convincing special effects. Isn't that what monster movies are all about?
Set around the turn of the 20th Century, Van Helsing features the titular hero (Hugh Jackman) taking a break from his usual "monster slayer" activities, which are commissioned by the Catholic Church, to pursue a grand plot initiated by Dracula (Richard Roxburg) involving the Frankenstein Monster (Shuler Hensley), the Wolf Man (Will Kemp), and the two last surviving members of a Transylvanian family that has long been battling the vampire.
Van Helsing is a fast-paced, computer graphics-laden horror/adventure/fantasy film wherein Universal re-imagines its core stable of classic horror characters. I actually like cgi, I'm not a purist, I love the genres--I'm not looking for realism, and I love fast-paced action-oriented thrill rides as much if not more than I love character studies.
As for the character remakes, Van Helsing becomes a slick retro-Matrix-styled macho action hero, part James Bond/007, part Indiana Jones, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a secret Catholic Church order filling in for the Watcher's Council and the Bond "Q Branch" combined. Dracula becomes a suave, scheming, mad scientist who looks like a romance novel hero. Frankenstein's Monster becomes much closer to Mary Shelley's depiction of an intelligent, loquacious, tormented, slapdash victim of a misguided doctor. And the Wolf Man, when wolf, becomes a cgi generated over-sized, super-agile, hyperactive beast. That should already turn off all of the purists.
The look of the film is lush, with lots of unusual point of view shots, exotic locations and computer-generated environments. CGI is used extensively for the human characters in the film as well as the monsters--it's frequently employed to enable physics defying stunts and amazing, far-ranging "computer camera" transitions. Van Helsing provides a good argument for such extensive digital assistance, as many of the visuals would be simply impossible to achieve through any other means and substituting some of the creatures with mechanicals, animatronics, special effects makeup and the like would have caused the film to go far over its already outrageous estimated budget of 160 million.
The plot, while not deep on characterization, couldn't be more full of events and action. Combined with the extravagant visuals and quickly changing, sprawling locations, the result is epic in scope. Director/writer Stephen Sommers, who was also responsible for remaking the image of another classic Universal character in The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) (probably the reason the Mummy is not present in here), begins Van Helsing in a black and white scene that wonderfully recreates the feel of the James Whale-lensed Frankenstein films, including referencing a number of shots, scenes and characters from those classics.
After the titles, we move into a color-filled world ala The Wizard of Oz while we're treated to a brief character-establishing scene of Van Helsing battling Mr. Hyde in the bell tower of Notre Dame. Sommers then quickly whisks us away to the Vatican, where Van Helsing receives his orders.
This whirlwind beginning can be almost overwhelming--it certainly is visually--and it takes a moment to get up to speed and catch our breath, but once we settle into the town square of Transylvania, we're enraptured by the story and the pacing reaches a more sustainable level. Although fantastical at heart, the performances from the principle cast members help anchor the film in "reality". Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Roxburgh, Henley and David Wenham all turn in nuanced performances that imply the depth of character that the film does not have the time to fully explore.
The intense action throughout the film combined with the cgi and spectacular sweeping camera moves often gives Van Helsing a feel somewhere between a comic book film and a video game. That fact might turn some viewers off, but as innovative, suspenseful, exciting filmic art, this is years ahead of most other recent releases. In fact, the sophisticated technological wizardry and entrancing epic storytelling is somewhat reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings films, which makes me wonder just what other viewers see in those to enable them to consistently sit high on the IMDb Top 250 list while Van Helsing struggles to attain a slightly above average rating. Perhaps Van Helsing deserves a more tempered first or second viewing from those who have summarily dismissed it due to unjustified expectations/preconceptions. This really is an outstanding film that at least deserves to be appreciated on a technical level, and should be easy enough to enjoy for its action-oriented storytelling prowess as well.
The plot of Van Helsing is somewhere between simple and complex. The back story is that Count Dracula and his three brides have given birth to countless offspring throughout the hundreds of years they've been living as vampires. They themselves were created from the living, but their children were not. They were born of the undead, and have never had the chance to come to life... or the afterlife vampires live. They simply are dead.
Then, Dracula comes upon a mad scientist named Dr. Frankenstein, whom wants to discover the secret of creating life. He helps the doctor in his sort-of admirable task of creating life, hoping to use his creation to bring life to his children. But it is not to be. As the film opens, Dr. Frankenstein is killed by Dracula, who no longer needs him, and his monster, whom Dracula needs to give the essence of life to his children, appears to perish in a fire.
A year later, Gabriel Van Helsing, a tortured man without a past is sent to Transylvania by the "Holy Order"... An organization of all of the religions of the world. With the assistance of a trusty sidekick, the still living monster of Frankenstein and a beautiful young woman, he must hunt down and destroy Dracula before he can give life to his thousands of children.
The reason I gave this movie a 9 out of 10 is that is never seems to get the recognition it deserves. It has great action, great actors, and a great story. (At least for a summer film) It's not the type of movie to be taken seriously, it's the type to sit down with some friends, have some popcorn, and get ready for a silly, scary, fun ride. I love it!. 9/10
Plot: Helsing and his assistant, a frair named Carl, are sent to Translvaynia to protect the last of a gypsy family from being stuck in purgatory due to a curse Dracula put on them. In the process however Helsing must also stop Drac's plan of engulfing the world in darkness all the while battling his minions. Throw in a plot device involving Frankenstein's monster and you have a pretty cool adventure brewing.
I'll admit for a movie that suppose to be about Helsing. They kinda dropped the ball on the story. There's way too much emphasis on the gypsy girl rather him and they don't flesh out his back story about his lost memory and his supposed history with Dracula. Also the movie has a few nonsense parts (the talk with the creepy undertaker) which kinda slows down the film a bit. But still the movie stays on a linear path and the set-ups up to confrontations are well done. Not to mention the confrontation themselves even if some are a little silly (ballroom scene (though a good homage to the Fearless Vampire Killers), the fight with the last bride, Igor and Dracula himself). Yes their CGI laden but I don't care, its a supernatural movie after all. So what better way to do them.
The actors seem very comfortable with their roles and looks to be having a great time. Extra props go out to the dude who played Frankenstien's monster, I was really feeling for him. Easily one of the best characters in the movie.
Add to that some excellent backdrops and clothes to which the film really draws you into its 19th century world. Yes the movie is full of flaws but it only for fun and only wants to entertain to which it success in spades. If you don't like it, well fine. But for all who love a good popcorn flick or a fan of old school monsters, you can look no further. Van Helsing is just the ticket for a simple good time.
While the plot isn't the strongest in the world, it actually doesn't make any difference as the special effects and incredible pace of the film doesn't really give you much chance to contemplate any deeper meanings or plotlines.
The poster campaign has featured heavily on this film containing Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster, though there are other wonderful classic characters which make the film an even bigger joy to watch for example Igor and Dr Jekyll with the former character becoming a wonderful stereotype of the hunchbacked laboratory assistant.
Strangely, the chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale doesn't have the same spark or passion as Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in the Mummy saga, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the two characters are not the typical leading man and lady who will obviously fall in love, which again gives this film quite a refreshing edge.
David Wenham as Carl, a friar sent to look after Van Helsing gives the comedy edge with wonderful one liners and a constant cheeky glint in his eye.
The monsters themselves are a perfect homage to Hammer Horror / Boris Karloff films although I personally found Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) a little bit too camp and less evil although his character was certainly a more evil Dracula than has been seen recently. His 3 brides are possible the surprise highlight of the film turning from beautiful women to gargoyle-like creatures in a split second are a joy to watch in every sense of the word.
The wolfman metamorphosis is (as has been reported) an incredible piece of special effects, with the victim tearing off his skin to reveal fur and vice versa throughout the change. But the important thing here is the word victim! Stephen Sommers has kept very close to the original stories portraying the wolfman as a helpless victim "it's not his fault, he can't help it" and this is no truer than in the excellent portrayal of Frankensteins Monster (Shuler Hensley) who as written by Mary Shelley is not an evil creature out for destruction, but more a lost soul out simply to be able to exist.
My only complaint would be that some of the CGI effects take over. While Sommers has obviously learnt from the travesty that was the CGI Scorpion King, there are times when characters are swinging from walls and ropes that you feel you are watching an animation rather than a live film. However, because these effects are also extremely well done, it is more of a criticism on the viewer who has obviously been spoilt with such effects recently.
The pastiges of this film are truly a joy, with references to James Bond (in a highly enjoyable scene about selecting weapons), X-men, Matrix, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Rocky Horror and countless other more obvious Horror classics.
Hugh Jackman (finally deserving his first lead role) is incredible and this role shows what a fantastic (and without doubt one of Hollywoods hunkiest) actors he is. This is truly his film and deservedly so, not that he ever wasn't in my eyes, but this film has now made him one of the industries hottest property!
This is an adventure of a film which all ages will enjoy and I highly recommend it, there isn't time to find fault as the pace will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Plot: Dracula, the Prince of Darkness, had Dr. Frankenstein create his monster for a nefarious purpose, but the vampire lord loses both the good doctor and his creation. A year later, having finished business in Paris (Mr. Hyde), monster hunter Van Helsing, alongside his genius sidekick Carl, is sent by the Knights of the Holy Order to Transylvania to kill Dracula while protecting Princess Anna from him. However, Dracula has three brides, a werewolf, and other creatures under his control. With the help of Carl, Anna, and Frankenstein's monster, Van Helsing sets out to stop this monster madness with an arsenal of crazy weapons and an attitude to match.
This is a great tribute to the classic monster movies. Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster have great updates, cool designs, and unique twists to their characters. Van Helsing is tough as nails and Anna is both sexy and strong. Both characters do have soft spots, especially for each other. Carl, along with many other things in this movie, is pretty darn funny. It's great the way all these characters are tied together in this crazy battle for the fate of the world.
With a complex story, nice effects, fun music, good comedy, and awesome action scenes, this movie is sure to please. A must-see film. Check it out. Be sure to bring stakes, crosses, silver bullets, and fire.
Why did I give it three stars? Because effects and cinematography have to count for something, and that this film has in spades. But in the plot and direction departments, this thing is one ugly mess. Van Helsing is the legendary vampire hunter, often ably played by Peter Cushing over at Hammer studios back in the 50s and 60s. Here you have another fine actor, underrated Hugh Jackman, playing Van Helsing, but you'd never get that by what goes on here.
So Universal drags out every legendary horror character in their catalog - not just Dracula, who actually IS a vampire. They manage to incorporate the Frankenstein monster and The Werewolf too. Bring in the mummy, the invisible man, and the creature from the black lagoon and the gang would all be here. There really is no plot to speak of, just lots of flying female vamps so you can get some gratuitous nudity in, and then there is a plot line installed to lampoon Jackman's role as Wolverine over at Marvel.
The bottom line - there must be something better you can do with your time. If not, then you need either a hobby or a job.
The film is a complete reworking of everything you think you know about all the big guys. Present for your enjoyment are Dracula, the Wolf man, Frankenstein's monster and a guest appearance by Mr. Hyde. And of course, tying the whole thing together is our hero, Van Helsing (yummily played by Hugh Jackman). Named Abraham in Stoker's book but called Gabriel in the film, VH doesn't appear in any book other than Dracula, but in the more than a century since his `birth' we've become accustomed to his presence as the elder statesman of monster killers.
Completely re-imagined in this new production, VH is now young, handsome, and virile and apparently as immortal and indestructible as the creatures he chases. Don't expect great resolutions or deep explanations here, there are none. Don't expect Academy Award level acting, some of the actors apparently phoned in their performances while others decided to take up the slack. The resultant scenery chewing is uneven, but never boring. The dialogue, not to put too fine a point on it, is absurd and sometimes unintentionally, howlingly funny.
The makers of this film are clearly fans of the genre. The subject matter is treated with a loving sledgehammer. As the film progressed my companion and I made a game of naming all the classics represented. In addition to those you might expect, we were able to recognize allusions to `Young Frankenstein,' `Star Wars,' `Aliens,' `Raiders of the Lost Ark,' `Gremlins,' `Romancing the Stone,' `Lord of the Rings,' `Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' `Twister,' "Wild, Wild West" and any James Bond film you care to name among others. If you go, try it yourself.
If the producers were intending to frighten us, they failed dismally; but if they only intended to entertain us they succeeded, if not brilliantly, at least admirably. I'm uncertain if they intended quite so much humor, but both my companion and I laughed out loud most of the way through.
In addition to inside jokes, the film is filled with extraordinary visual images. From the opening encounter between VH and a startlingly oversized and athletic Edward Hyde, physicality is the order of the day. Everyone, including Van Helsing's friar sidekick is a magnificent specimen. Even Frankenstein's monster (who I nicknamed `Sparky' for the electrical discharges from his partially exposed brain) is hideously beautiful. Also, the cinematography is breathtaking. Both real scenery and CGI imagined are dazzling. I especially loved the castles Dracula and Frankenstein. Both edifices were Mad Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle as imagined by Tim Burton. I'd almost say that if the film had no other virtues at all, it would still be worth the price of admission for the incredible beauty of its backgrounds. However, the real star of the film is the (you guessed it) special effects.
Transformation scenes abound. At any point in the film you are only moments from watching someone turn into something. And what wonderful things they are. Vampires don't become simple bats, but snake-jawed, full size harpies. The Wolf man sprouts saber tooth fangs as he rips the human skin from his body. Frankenstein's monster's flesh partially peels from his skull and is smoothly pushed back into place and Mr. Hyde morphs from grinning giant menace to pitiful human corpse.
Not to put too fine a point on it, everyone-vampires, villagers, heroes, even horses and cattle go airborne sometime during the film. Dracula's three brides take the prize for most hang time. These ladies would be a wonderful asset to the Transylvanian Air Force with their dizzying dives, spins and barrel rolls. The camera gives us a bat's eye view of their deadly aerobatic ballet. When not in full flight Dracula and his wives walk up walls, across ceilings and carry on family quarrels while hanging from the rafters by their toes. Those characters that do not fly on their own power are lifted aloft and usually dropped soon after. The rest are climbers, scrambling up and down castle architecture like houseflies on speed. Interestingly, no one is ever seriously hurt or even has a hairstyle mussed.
The scenes shift so rapidly that it becomes difficult at times to follow the story. Fortunately, the gossamer plot is as deep as a kiddie's backyard swimming pool, so it isn't too much of a problem. Only the barest bones are needed to carry us from one action sequence to the next. Although there is no nudity and not a cussword is uttered, the film is violent. Well, of course it's violent--and about as traumatic as a Road Runner cartoon. Still, it earns its PG-13 rating. Leave the little 'uns home. The throbbing, pounding soundtrack keeps the attention even when not very much is happening.
Is Van Helsing a great film? No. Absolutely not. Is it a good film? No, not really. Is it entertaining? Yes. And maybe, just maybe, that's enough.
Hugh Jackman is great in the part and is building an impressive action CV. The nods to the Universal movies of the 30s and 40s are well appreciated and one good point is that Frankensteins Monster who isn't intrinsically evil is allowed to survive at the end. He and the other monsters are presented in a new modern original way while at the same time having features that been part of them since they were first committed to celluloid.
If you want an action filled exciting couple of hours you could do a hell of a lot worse than watch Van Helsing.
The starring is Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) , the monster hunter . The first fight with Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane)in the Cathedral Notre Dame of Paris is breathtaking .
After that , he is assigned by Vatican to track down Dracula . He's helped by an action woman (Kate Beckinsale) and an assistant friar (David Wedham) who provides him anything gadgets as "Q" in James Bond's serials . He will have to confront werewolf , Frankestein (Shular Hensley) and specially Dracula (Richard Roxbough) and his brides (Elena Anaya, Silvia Colloca and Joshie Marian) .
The film is spectacular , the action-packed is fascinating and computer generator effects specials (FX) are overwhelming though excessive .
The movie mingles monsters action , suspense, terror , gore , rip-roaring, tongue-in-cheek , a little bit of humor and is amount bemusing but the plot is ridiculous .
Direction by Stephen Sommers is average , Alan Daviau's cinematography , set design by Alan Cameron and Alan Silvestri's musical score is outstanding.
Rating 6/10 . Passable .
(1) Ensure screenplay consists of little but a series of continual action sequences, none of which advance your story one iota
(2) Assume that your audience will be indifferent to 'character development' and 'coherence' and ensure therefore that your screenplay contains neither.
(3) Instruct sound people to turn all sound-effects up to 11, no make that 12
(4) Tell effects people to lay on the CGI with a trowel and to make it look as cartoonish as possible
(5) Ensure sound effects and CGI combine to guarantee Dramamine sales rocket
(6) Employ an epileptic woodpecker to edit your movie
(7) Refer sound people, CGI people and editor to 'The Mummy Returns' to give them an idea of what you're looking for
(8) Laugh darkly and malevolently at the filmgoers who forked out hard-earned cash to have their taste and intelligence insulted by you.
Okay now to the bad. Where could i begin? You have a movie with three of the greatest monsters ever created and things some how go horribly wrong. If i may for a moment say that this movie should've been Castlevania the movie but i'm extremely glad it wasn't as it would've been an insult to the series of video games which had deeper, stronger plots than this thing. Its obnoxiously loud, makes no effort for a little character development and makes some horrible use of the aforementioned monsters, including some sorry excuses for CG. Luckily for Mr. Jackman that he has the XMen franchise to live off of and lucky for Kate Beckinsale that she is a hottie because neither of these two have offered much of anything else in any of their other movies and offer even less in this one(what is up with that accent Kate?). Van Helsing makes quick work of getting its characters into situations where they look cool and say cool things. Unfortunately they end up not looking so cool and saying things that are irritating. Its as if the characters know they are in a movie and know that they can't be stopped because the script says so!
I'll finish off with this last thing. I subject myself to all kinds of movies. I enjoy great, timeless dramas as much as do dumb summer fair so its not as if i'm a pretentious film student who can't turn off the brain and enjoy some eye candy. There is room for all kinds of films in my mind and neither is more or less important. Anywho, I DO NOT walk out of a movie for any reason, not even to pee. I'm there, i'm giving two hours of my time for the movie. This is my philosophy and for 20 plus years of movie watching i've NEVER once walked out. For Van Helsing i not only took a trip to the bathroom but i went for a cigarette too! I could care less about what was happening which is a sign that not one character was interesting. Not one character seemed genuine nor interesting. So welcome in the summer crop of Hollywood crap with open arms and blank stares, its going to be one long summer movie season!
Where do I begin? Besides currently entertaining a class-action suit to sue for my time back, I'm compelled to paraphrase Homer Simpson and just write `Screw Sommers' for the next twelve lines, but I suppose I need to try to put into words why I think this is one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my entire LIFE.
It wasn't the fact that the CGI (with some slight exceptions of the work on Dr. Jekyll but only slight and fleeting) was terrible. It wasn't the fact that there was a plethora of plot holes and loose ends (even allowing for a franchise). Nor could it simply be explained by the fact that the story progressed as quickly as your average daytime soap opera. (You mean that they are STILL at the same party and I missed six months of the show?) This movie was horrible because it tried to be something it just absolutely couldn't a coherent, action-oriented popcorn flick. I was aghast within the first three or four minutes, and quickly felt like Malcolm McDowell in `A Clockwork Orange' being forced to watch horrible imagery on the screen. I tried my damndest, but I couldn't even take the opportunity for a two hour nap because this film was like a bad accident you want to look away, every fiber of your being is telling you to look away, but you just can't because you are so astonished at how horrible the display before you is. I can't remember exactly when, because I think my body went into shock halfway through as a defense mechanism, but I was so appalled by the corniness and sheer awfulness of a particular scene, that I actually turned to a complete stranger next to me who was alone and completely slouched down with a look on his face like he had not only just run over his dog, but was forced to do it again, and said, `Okay, seriously?!' and garnered a sympathetic eye roll in return.
-Definite Spoilers Ahead-
I'm not even going to comment on the acting because there WAS no acting, except that Kate Beckinsale had an accent which ranged from Count Chocula to something completely indistinguishable, and made for some pretty hilarious viewing. Oh wait, I wasn't supposed to laugh at that I was supposed to laugh at Igor walking around muttering under his breath how it's always, `Do THIS Igor, do THAT Igor.' I also don't think I was supposed to be laughing when Beckinsale was telling people to run inside to protect themselves from Dracula's brides, yet she and everyone else ran circles around the town square for about five minutes I was supposed to find the fact that the Friar, when asked by a townsperson what she could do to make up for him saving her life, ends up calling in his favor by sleeping with her. (Not after reminding us for the 100th time that he's not yet a monk he's a FRIAR.) And I certainly don't think I was supposed to laugh at the Frankenstein Popsicle (why the hell was Frankenstein in the film in the first place, and secondly, why was he frozen in a block of ice?!) I was supposed to be worried that these jokers were going to get out of Dracula's Castle alive. Unfortunately the only thing I was worried about was whether or not I could control myself long enough to sit through this piece of garbage without trying to sabotage the film and end the misery. The fate of Kate Beckinsale was promising for about a tenth of a second, until Sommers apparently not only decided to attempt to channel the 30's monster films, but The Lion King as well. The touching and tender moment which was probably supposed to illicit emotion definitely created a reaction in me something akin to a stomach flu or acid reflux.
I've never seen `The Mummy' or `The Mummy Returns', so I can't compare it to his other work, but Van Helsing makes Stephen Sommers look worse than an amateur he comes across as an amateur who thinks he knows what he's doing. In reality, what he's doing is ruining the promising career of good actors, Hugh Jackman and Richard Roxborough. Rich .Hugh, seriously leave this potential franchise and run towards the light. Based on the ridiculous presentation of this film, the next one will have Van Helsing getting stuck in a cage match between the Easter Bunny and Snoopy and we'll be encouraged to find it awe-inspiring because it will be from `The Director of The Mummy!' I can see the trailer now: `Odie. Peppermint Patty. The Wicked Witch of the West. All fear one man .' And hopefully we won't then be seeing Hugh Jackman look up from under his hat this time, but Corey Feldman.
This `film' will do nothing but waste your time. If there was a grade lower than a `1' on the IMDB voting list, I would classify it as that instead of reluctantly giving it a positive number. I wouldn't wish this thing on my worst enemy I can't muster up enough hate to inflict this tripe. It wasn't long before I was jealous of the vampires' victims, because I wanted to be put out of my misery as easily. Van Helsing is nothing but a huge disappointment, and will only drain any strength of will or intelligence from you. When the film ended, I was left completely defeated and struck dumb. Drop the popcorn and slowly step away from the movie.
Now I loved director Stephen Sommers "Mummy" movies, especially the first one, which was lots of fun, I really like fine actors Hugh Jackman, Richard Roxburgh (wonderfully camp in Moulin Rouge) and David Wenham and I was fairly open minded about Kate Beckinsale as I'd hardly seen her in anything before, so I sat down to watch this movie (on pay per view at home) perfectly willing to be entertained. I rarely watch a movie about which I can find nothing good to say, but this was one of those rarities. From the incoherent script, to the confused plot, to the ear splitting sound track, to the overuse and abuse of CGI, to the tacky Brides of Frankenstein (or whatever those girlies were supposed to be. When it comes to scantily clad women, erotic is good, tacky isn't), to Kate Beckinsale's silly costume, to the revolting peasants, the entire thing was such a mess. I think it just proves again that the quality of a movie bears little relation to how much money you throw at it, and that there is really no substitute for a decent script.
I'm not averse to special effects movies. Try and imagine films like, say, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or Star Trek: First Contact or last year's War of the Worlds, without special effects. Doesn't really work, does it? And those are all movies I loved, because the effects are used to enhance the story, to tell it better. But what you have at the core of those films, is a good exciting story, well written, and with characters you care about.
Who cares about any of these guys? Van Helsing fails mostly because it substitutes special effects for character and story, and then tries to take itself seriously. It's quite a cynical film, hoping to find an audience dumb enough to lap it up.
I'm still trying to imagine what good actors like Jackman and Wenham were doing in this? Maybe it was one of those movies that's much more fun to make than to watch, I'm sure they had a blast in Prague, or where ever it was, and earned enough to pay the mortgage for a few months. I'm also well aware that as a middle aged woman I'm probably not the target audience for Van Helsing. So it really only remains to say that I sat down to watch it with my two teenage kids, one of each sex. They hated it too, and gave up watching long before I did. When a movie is so bad that my teenage son would rather do his homework than watch - that's bad!
1) Movies made to please the gods, uh, I mean the critics.
2) Movies made for the average viewer.
This was not a number one styled film, it was a two. And despite some historical inaccuracies (but really, if you were picking it apart already, you weren't really into the movie) it was a good movie.
It introduced some new ideas, like Dracula and the three wives trying to reproduce, involving the werewolves, etc. I had a lot of fun with it. It was action packed, the CGI's were decent. All in all, a great movie!
(but that's just me)
Just kidding, of course. "Van Helsing" is wall to wall special effects and hammy acting dancing across poorly lit set designs. Classic movie buffs are turned off in the first few minutes with the over-the-top alleged "homage" to the black and white Universal horror flicks. The plot is arbitrary and pointless, though with so much going on and Kate Beckinsale in tight corsets, I suppose this does have some entertainment value for ten year-old boys. I watched this one rainy Saturday afternoon and left twice to clean my bathroom and mop my kitchen floor, and I didn't miss a thing.
The first fifteen minutes of Van Helsing are promising: a black-and-white prologue depicting mad scientist Frankenstein and his monstrous creation is a nice little homage to the Universal Pictures of past times. It's nicely juxtaposed with the movie's opening action sequence, an exhilarating battle between the titular Van Helsing and the evil Mr. Hyde (a silly special effect, but used well in this opening scene), with plenty of over-the-top stunts that are thrilling to watch.
But most of the rest of the film is a complete and utter mess, so much that I wouldn't be surprised if the movie saw an afterlife as a cult classic of sorts. Truth be told, I sort of admire the movie's outrageousness and I honestly can't bring myself to totally hate it, but I sure as hell can't say I liked it, either.
Hugh Jackman stars as Van Helsing, the Vatican Church's assassin of evil creatures. A clumsy monologue between Van Helsing and one of the priests serves as exposition, though you would think this conversation is one they would have had a long time ago (yeah, I understand it's to bring the audience up to speed but there are less idiotic ways of doing it). We're also introduced to a secret hideout under the Church with an arsenal of weaponry and inventions.
Van Helsing's latest assignment is to head to Transylvania and help the remaining Valerious family (pretty much just Kate Beckinsale) kill the vampire Dracula, who if not vanquished, will somehow prevent the Valerious clan from entering Heaven. Van Helsing's also got another incentive for going: there's an insignia on a paper from Transylvania that looks a lot like the symbol on his ring. You see, he has no memory of his past, except lots of nightmares involving ancient wars he couldn't possibly have been part of (this, too, is clumsily introduced and is something that one would think he would have mentioned long ago). For this mission, Van Helsing brings along friar Carl (David Wenham), a milquetoast inventor but nonetheless faithful companion. Along with Anna (Beckinsale), they set out to end Dracula's reign of terror before he can finish with a plan that could bring to life thousands of his offspring.
Beckinsale's introductory scene is also pretty cool (and also very silly), with lots of slow-mo, as she helps her brother fight off a Dracula-controlled werewolf. It's also a decent action sequence in its own right. Soon afterward, Van Helsing's arrival leads to yet another battle scene, this time between the Anna's townspeople and Dracula's sexy brides. This, too, is another passably enjoyable sequence, if also a little overdrawn.
Come to think of it, most of the action scenes in this movie are passably competent, but not much more. I did like the coach chase, and I enjoyed almost every scene involving flying vampires (so long as they're not of the baby bat variety). But after a while, it's just overkill, particularly the insane climax, where we actually witness Frankenstein swinging around on rope and accidentally knocking over not one but two villains who are about to kill our heroes on two separate occasions. The baby vampires are also ridiculously lame, and a possibly exciting action sequence set inside an elaborate masquerade conveniently ends very quickly with the use of a "grenade" (think Blade II).
The performances are about what I expected, overdone but fitting. Matter of fact, despite some initially annoying turns catching me off-guard (David Wenham's Carl, for instance), most of the leads actually kind of grew on me after a while. That said, Jackman is a tad bland, surprising when you consider what a charismatic actor he normally is. The gorgeous Beckinsale is fine in her role, even if her cringe-inducing accent isn't. Wenham scores some laughs as Carl, none more effective than a scene where after he's saved a hot chick who asks how she can repay him, he answers with a "naughty" request. Richard Roxburgh is quite amusing as Dracula, hamming it up in every possible moment and proving quite enjoyable to watch. Kevin J. O'Connor also delivers a few good laughs as Igor, I especially loved his response to why he keeps torturing the werewolf.
But there's only so much fun performances can do to keep such a poorly crafted and written film afloat. Lots of questions go unanswered; why would Frankenstein the monster show any feelings for his master when you consider the fact he never even speaks to him (the movie opens with the scientist proclaiming "it's alive!", then is killed by Drac less than five minutes later, hardly enough time for Frank and the monster to bond)? Why has the Vatican waited so long to send Van Helsing to kill Dracula when considering he's presumably had many assignments beforehand? Why does Van Helsing bring along Carl for this mission? Why does that creepy, white-haired Transylvanian guy stay out in the middle of night when there are vampires and werewolves lurking about? How exactly does Dracula maintain control over his werewolves and why exactly does he even need them? Why is the werewolf antidote confined in such an elaborate manner when it proves to be something Dracula would hypothetically need to take hold of in quick fashion?
A few of these questions might actually have been answered but with all the indecipherable accents and loud score and soundtrack, I couldn't tell you. The foley guys must have had a field day cranking up every sound threefold, and Alan Silvestri's overwrought score has this distracting tex-mex style twang in the background. The story, in general, is convoluted, but put together with so little coherency that every time an action sequence pops up, its random appearance is more disjointed than thrilling.
The CGI is extremely overwhelming, but instead of creating a visually atmospheric and engulfing environment, it's a goofy example of extreme overload. F/X shots are inserted with little care to their effectiveness, and the film is packed with obvious and annoying CGI stunts. It's actually almost as bad as LXG in this regard, but is at least not nearly as bloated (from a running time POV) and visually plain as Pirates of the Caribbean (which gave us little more than underused CGI skeletons and a lot of plain-looking islands and warships).
The movie's super-cheesy final scenes lead me to wonder if Sommers was on crack when he included those last few f/x shots. I hate to say it, but he's now almost on the same level of George Lucas when it comes to pasting together plot, action, and special effects. Hard to believe this is the same guy who gave us the terrifically entertaining The Mummy, but with every successive film, he's actually going further and further away from what made his first blockbuster such a joy
Standing around over explaining the plot Or engaging in clichéd action sequences with no decent payoff.
Don't bother with this title. Or any other Stephen Sommers title for that matter. He has proved to be one of the most inept directors of all time.
"Oooo, you cynical folk are being too hard on it" I hear some of you deranged individuals cry...
The Mummy had the same pitch as this movie, including the use of an old Universal monster. I liked the Mummy. The Mummy was good. The Mummy was fun. The Mummy was a well put together movie, its characters were pretty much one dimensional but everybody liked them. It had none of Van Helsing's frankly sloppy plot devices. A couple of cases in point:
"Ooo, we're all going on a werewolf hunt"
"Right lets plan this all real careful, like. We got the cage we got the bait we got our rifles. Anything else?"
"Good idea. But I tell you what, lets not put silver bullets in all of our rifles, lets just put them in one measly little revolver so that Beckinsale can almost get crushed by the falling cage as she runs to grab it."
Dracula. He's Romanian. The Gypsies come from Romania. Lets be really clever and give the count Gypsy earrings and a pony tail! Wow that'll be really authentic and won't make him look like a god damned idiot in any way shape or form!
These are just two criticisms out of the many that I could level at this film but frankly i don't want to spend any more time discussing it! Please save your money don't go to this movie and don't give them an excuse to make a sequel. It would be a terrible terrible thing to inflict on the world.