Published on May 11th, 2004 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Van Helsing
If Van Helsing is what $170 million dollars buys you these days I can’t wait to see what $200 million will buy us next weekend when Troy opens. Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman as the title character, comes to us from monster movie mogul Stephen Sommers who delivered The Mummy and The Mummy Returns as well as the cult-classic Deep Rising. Yet, with Van Helsing, Sommers seems to falter on his penance for creating fun movies with shallow, yet involved characters and tons of great action. Make no mistake, VH is one of the loudest, biggest summer movies to come along this decade but after all the CGI monsters are reverted to wire frame, and the script is filed in a cabinet, we still have a completely average movie that shows only small signs of greatness.
The movie, as the title alludes, revolves around Gabriel Van Helsing, a man with no memory of his past but has been chosen by the church to rid the world of evil. Van Helsing is a troubled man who must kill creatures of the night as he sees them, but after they are dead, they revert back to their original form (as seen with the opening battle scene). This reversion has earned him the label of murderer and is wanted by many police forces all over Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania to seek out a well known guy by the name of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) who, as we find out, is attempting to bring life to his offspring and create swarms of vampires to ravage the known world. Van Helsing will eventually met up with the beautiful Anna (Kate Beckinsale) who is the last of her family line sworn to destroy Dracula at all costs.
The story of the film draws parallels from many other vampire/werewolf movies of the past, including heavy influence from the Beckinsale headlined Underworld released last year. Dracula seems to be the enemy of choice at the moment, later to be seen as Drake in Blade: Trinity later this year, but is it really necessary for Roxburgh to overact the part to the point it becomes more comical than menacing? There was more than a few times when I cringed at the screen not only because of the cheesy lines, but the way they were delivered. I know Hollywood likes to keep things tongue-in-cheek, but this above and beyond.
The overacting isn’t the only problem with the film. Sommers decided that Dracula, a vampire that is almost impossible to kill, wasn’t evil enough so he gave him henchmen, but not just any henchmen, mutant-Ewok henchmen. These three foot things scamper around making growling sounds for almost the entire movie, yet they are only referred to once and that reference doesn’t explain who they are, or what in the world they are doing here.
One of the biggest draws of the film was using some of the back-catalogue of Universal’s movie monsters like Frankenstein’s monster and The Wolf-man. I give props to Sommers for writing a clever way to get all of these monsters in the same script, but I fear he wasted to many pages trying to explain how many of these monsters could interact together and left out the back-story we really would have liked to see. When we learn who Van Helsing really is it is only uttered once and the audience doesn’t even get a flashback to help explain what was just said. It seems odd that we get information on most of the monsters, Anna, and the organization the Van Helsing works for, but nothing on the man himself.
If I sound as though I didn’t enjoy the film, that isn’t fully true. I actually had a great time viewing the movie and didn’t stop to check my watch at all, but with heavy reliance on CGI effects and huge amounts of eye candy it makes it painfully obvious that there isn’t much to sustain the film as far as story goes. I’m sure Universal is already planning a sequel, but for the amount of money that was spent on this film I was expecting a lot more and came out of the theater being somewhat disappointed and almost insulted by the horrible, rainbow-coated ending. See the film, but leave you expectations at the door.