The hardest part of reviewing “Van Helsing” is deciding how many stars
to give it because it looked good. The CGI was nothing special, but
passable for the most part (save a fairly important transformation
sequence at the end that looked like it was from “The Lawnmower Man).
The sets were beautiful and gothic, seeing Dracula’s Castle and Dr.
Frankenstein’s laboratory on such an elaborate budget was spectacular,
and it was shot with the appropriate low-angle hero-worship necessary
for the suspension of disbelief to become enjoyable.
The rest of the movie, of course, was horrible.
Bad, to worse, to Frankenstein’s monster quoting the psalms and
the guy who played Faramir fighting with Igor (who looked strikingly
like Radu from the “Subspecies” series) on a bridge with a cattle prod.
The dialog was like something Roland Emmerich rejected and then flushed
down David Mamet’s toilet. I’m aware of the snarkiness of the previous
sentence, but that’s just the sort of response this terrible movie has
evoked in me.
If you must know, the plot centers on Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman)
and his sidekick friar Carl (David Wenham of “Lord of the Rings”)
heading to Transylvania to dispose of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh)
and his vampire brides at the behest of a shadowy Vatican order.
Dracula, flanked by a few werewolves for good measure, is in search of
the Frankenstein Monster so he can bring his dead vampire fetuses to
life. Lest you think you misread that, it is indeed about Dracula using
the monster for fertility purposes.
“Van Helsing” was written and directed by Stephen Sommers, the
man behind both “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns,” and really that’s
about all you need to know. The man has a light touch for visuals, and
even when the CGI isn’t up to par, it’s still fun to watch. However,
“Van Helsing” is no where near as much fun as either “Mummy” films,
and instead of playing like a second-rate Indiana Jones, it feels as if
Universal and Sommers are taking themselves too seriously.
These classic monsters have been around a long time, but they are
inherently supposed to be fun. Roxburgh’s Dracula seems so iconic he
seems to forget what makes Dracula so interesting in the first place.
Roxburgh, a stage actor, seems to forget that he needn’t play the role
so the people in the back rows know what’s going on. I can’t believe
I’m saying this about a movie like Van Helsing, but if Roxburgh had
just toned things down a little bit, the movie may have been more fun.
I highly doubt anyone remembers Jeremy Irons in “Dungeons and Dragons,”
but if you’re unlucky enough to, this performance is almost as bad.
Jackman and Kate Beckinsale as, well, the girl, do what they can in
poorly written parts. Jackman looks cool in his billowing cape and
giant-brimmed hat, but only about an eighth as cool as his Wolverine.
But if you go see this flick you’re not going for the acting, or the
directing, or the story, or blah blah blah. You’re going for the
special effects, and if you like what you see in the commercials or
trailers, you’ll like what you see in the movie. Simple as that.
Bottom line, Van Helsing is dumb, but the titular creatures have
survived worse than this (“Love at First Bite,” “Teen Wolf, Too,” etc.)
and if you must go to the movies to kill time before the real brainless
summer stuff comes out and you’re looking for some fun special effects,
go see “Hellboy.” Seriously.