Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentary with director
Stephen Sommers and producer Bob Duscay; Commentary with Richard
Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp; Explore Dracula's Castle.
Bloopers; Bringing Monsters To Life; You Are In The Movie; The
Legend of Van Helsing; Trailers.
Disc Two: Explore Frankenstein's Lab. Van Helsing: The Story,
The Life, The Legend (mini-documentary); Track The Adventure:
Van Helsing Map; The Music of Van Helsing; Dracula's Lair Is Transformed.
HOLLYWOODS thirst for action and special effects proves
almost as insatiable as Draculas lust for blood in Van Helsing,
the first big-budget extravaganza of the 2004 Summer season.
Sadly, it makes for a viewing experience every bit as cold as
the fanged ones heart in this excruciatingly painful take
on the vampire legend.
Van Helsing is indicative of a worrying new trend in modern movie-making
- that of placing spectacle above all else in the hope that audiences
wont notice the glaring lack of plot or characterisation.
But while this may delight the computer game generation, who
arent accustomed to stretching their brains for any great
length of time, the more discerning viewer is likely to leave
the cinema feeling as battered as one of the console victims.
Van Helsing is a classic case of a movie with vast potential
being hopelessly squandered. It is reportedly Universals
most expensive film ever, boasts some cracking special effects,
and a charismatic lead performer in X-Men
favourite, Hugh Jackman.
Yet in director, Stephen Sommers, who helmed the equally derivative
Mummy Returns, it has
someone who doesnt know when to stop - you can literally
count the seconds between each action sequence, such is the movies
inability to pause for even a minute.
Jackman stars as the legendary Van Helsing, a man cursed with
a past he cannot remember, who is charged by a secret organisation
to seek out and defeat evil all over the world. He operates as
a sort of James Bond cum Indiana Jones, armed with a quick-firing
crossbow, and all manner of gadgets.
When dispatched to the shadowy world
of Transylvania, he finds a community living in fear of the evil,
seductive and undefeatable vampire, Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh).
Allying himself with Kate Beckinsales Anna Valerious, one
of the last of a powerful royal family, Van Helsing bids to find
and destroy the count, along with his evil minions (including
a werewolf and his vampish brides), but finds himself inexplicably
linked to Dracula and his evil intentions.
The ensuing adventure unfolds at breakneck pace, squandering
any potential offered by its premise, and repeatedly ripping off
other, better movies.
Its somewhat ironic that a movie about the undead should
be as lifeless and soulless as Van Helsing, but Sommers
film doesnt seem to credit its audience with an attention
span long enough to justify any serious story-telling, and feels
Hence, while some of the special effects sequences are undoubtedly
impressive (such as an early vampire attack involving Draculas
brides), many of the others fall by the wayside, amid a seen
it all before type feeling, and a mounting desperation to
catch ones breath.
Jackman struggles manfully to inject some deadpan charisma into
proceedings, but is frequently let down by a non-existent script
and the performances of those around him, with Beckinsale and
Roxburgh both succumbing to hammy accents, and some truly dire
They are all hampered by Sommers inconsistent directing
style, which doesnt seem to know whether to keep things
tongue-in-cheek and camp, or jump out of your seat and horrific
- some of the creature make-up is such that the young (its core
audience) may find it a little too scary.
Sommers clearly intends that his movie should breathe new life
into some of the classic Universal monsters, but, instead, threatens
to places a very large nail in their coffin.
So at a time when epic adventures, such as The
Lord of the Rings, and nostalgic romps, such as Pirates
of the Caribbean, prove that it is possible to marry special
effects and action with good old-fashioned story-telling, Van
Helsings failure to do either is made all the more glaring.
It is, at the end of the day, yet another Summer blockbuster