“The notorious monster hunter is sent to Transylvania to stop Count Dracula who is using Dr. Frankenstein’s research and a werewolf for some sinister purpose.”
Directed by: Stephen Sommers, Rated: PG-13, 131 minutes
Van Helsing is a film very similar to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in both style and substance. Both films tackle literary villains and characters we’ve seen countless adaptations of and both movies do it with heavy CGI and very little depth. While LXG may be awful to the point of being hard to watch, Van Helsing is just really hard to swallow. It’s a movie so severely flawed it’s hard to forgive, but by the end credits, you’re at least the slightest bit entertained. Plus, for the majority of that run-time we get to see Kate Beckinsale run around in a corset. And anytime I have an excuse to see that, I’m more than happy to sit back and take it in.
Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman and yes, Gabe, not Abraham) is a man who works for the Catholic Church. He’s one of their rather unorthodox agents in that he travels the world hunting monsters, creatures, ghouls, and all sorts of baddies. Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania (of course) to find and defeat the evil Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) who has been terrorizing a local village and poses a threat to the Church. We all know God hates vampires. Of course, Van Helsing, being the blockbuster hero he is, cannot do this dangerous task all alone so the comic-relief/inventor Carl (David Wenham) tags along for the ride. Once they have arrived in Eastern Europe, Van Helsing meets the beautiful, poorly-accented Anna Valerious (Beckinsale) who has a lot at stake in the war versus Dracula. Together, all three must find a way to stop the king of all vampires and bring peace to a land destined to be nothing more than the home of the bloodsuckers. Oh, Frankenstein’s monster, Jekyl and Hyde, and a lot of little vampire babies also pop up in the film, because why not?
Years ago, I loved the crap out of this movie. I thought, “Wolverine AND Kate Beckinsale fighting vampires together!? F**k yes!”, and that initial excitement must have completely disillusioned me from seeing the real quality of the film. In short, Van Helsing sucks a lot of undead ass. It’s pacing is terrible, and the God-awful script makes you laugh more than anything. Directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), you do go in expecting a wild mix of CGI and action, with a tad bit of humor throw in for good measure, but unfortunately, Van Helsing lacks any of the epic feelings The Mummy was able to elicit to keep things interesting. The movie, however, has a couple of great set pieces, including the Transylvanian town and Dracula’s castle, but whenever the action gets heavy and the CGI rolls out like the poorly rendered beast it is, you lose any of the impressiveness of those sets. It’s quite disappointing that a film that’s only eight years old looks so bad in the special effects department, especially when the studio behind those effects, helped pioneer those used in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The only bits worth mentioning are the transformations of both Dracula’s brides and the werewolves, but even then it’s more about the idea behind them and not the actual executions.
Hugh Jackman tries his hardest to make Van Helsing watchable and you’re just left praying to God that he returns to the Adamantium-boned, cigar-smoking Wolverine and maintains that character as his only action hero. Even with all of his Aussie charisma and charm, Jackman can do very little with awful effects and even worse dialogue. Van Helsing is a film that can and should be easily forgotten and left in the past. Unfortunately with the long-rumored reboot/sequel/prequel/remake on its way sooner than later, those locked away memories will only resurface. In the mean time, skip Van Helsing if you haven’t seen it already (it’s 131 f**king minutes long) and if you have, stay away from any bits of teasing you may have of being compelled to re-watch it.
Beckinsale in a corset
terrible special effects that are more laughable than anything else
disgusting dialogue and pretty bad acting that leave you really frustrated and even angry
Do we really need re-tellings of Dracula, Frankenstein, and other literary horror stories?