Review: Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing

Van Helsing

Rating



Director

Stephen Sommers

Screenplay

Stephen Sommers

Length

132 min.

Starring

Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley, Elena Anaya, Will Kemp, Kevin J. O’Connor

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (For nonstop creature action violence and frightening images, and for sensuality)

Buy/Rent Movie

Soundtrack

Poster

Review

Hollywood’s most famous monsters come out to play in Stephen Sommers’ horror spectacle Van Helsing.

Famed vampire hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) starts off the film stalking Londoner Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) through Paris, destroying half of Notre Dame by the end of the sequence. From there, we learn that Van Helsing is a secret warrior of the Catholic Church sent to capture creatures of unusual origin.

He’s next sent to Romania with Carl (David Wenham), a monk-in-training who designs fancy weapons. There, he’s to assist Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) in destroying the legendary Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). In the process, he fights Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley) and Anna’s brother Velkan (Will Kemp) who was turned into a werewolf by a near-fatal bite.

The plethora of characters is maddening to pay attention to with even more characters to watch, including Dr. Frankenstein’s sidekick Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) and Dracula’s three brides. It’s enough to cause your brain to go into overload and shut down. Not even the modestly interesting plot can hold the entire film together.

The performances are weak at best with only Jackman and Wenham able to prop up the unrelenting banality. However, not even the worst acting in the film can compare to the horrendous Roxburgh. Striving for an accent throughout the film, it often recoils from him leaving us unimpressed with the British “Romanian”. Roxburgh does nothing but drag down an already weak group of performances.

Much like the horror films the characters represent, Van Helsing is a movie that’s more about the ambiance and setting than the quality of the achievement. Director Stephen Sommers’ takes what he’s done with The Mummy and The Mummy Returns and applies them to this film with the same amount of success. Where as the first Mummy film was mildly entertaining, it focused more on the visuals than on the story and with slightly better performances in The Mummy , Sommers has taken a downward turn, much like his The Mummy Returns.

The visual effects form a perfect analogy to the quality of the film. When the visual effects show us idyllic scenes and sets without foreground action, we awe at the quality; much like the screenplay. However, when the visual effects focus on creatures and entities moving within a scene, be it green screen or set pieces, we cringe at the rudimentary design and unrealistic imagery; just like the acting.

Van Helsing is nothing more than an effects piece highlighting advances and regressions in technology while taking ludicrous ideas and making them surprisingly fascinating. Only core creature-feature fans will have the potential of enjoying this film. Regular audiences will likely cheer at the visuals and forget about any semblance of plot or performance as they rely on their brain only to keep them awake.

Review Written

June 1, 2004

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