Van Helsing Reviews
The plot? Van Helsing must do battle against Dracula and his minions plus werewolves and Frankenstein's monster...the end. This really is such a tough film to review for me, we all know Sommers from his Mummy films and we all knew exactly what to expect from his directing. This guy revels in complete tongue-in-cheek schlock action which is usually realised through heavy use of CGI. Its an old saying but think Indiana Jones but even more ludicrous, even more silly, even more quickfire quips and outrageously over the top everything. We all know this and going into this movie we again...all knew this, we knew it would be nonsense of the highest order, so I simply cannot complain about the fact the film is a total load of hammy cliches. I knew it would be! the only reason I wanted to see the film was simply down to the content...Universal's monsters.
This is the only reason why I had to see the film and why I give it kudos of any kind, the pure unadulterated fantastico monster mashing. But again I'm hampered! yes again!! the reason being I absolutely adored the concept behind this, the art direction, the atmosphere, the sets, the lighting, the use of that olde worlde Victorian steampunk style etc...but there are so many things about the film I hated and wanted to change. So many ideas that just begged to be awesome but the route they chose killed me artistically!
The monsters...ah those epic monsters...what the hell did they do to Dracula?! seriously! Could they have gone any further away from how this character should have looked at least. Sure Roxburgh does a good job with the role and stereotypical accent but his look...holy crapenstein! the Prince of Darkness looks like a rock star with that camp hair and God awful earrings. Yeah you could say that suits his style but the film is set within 18th Century not the present, it feels all wrong. They do get his Brides kinda right in monster mode at least although they seem to be dressed in Arabic style attire to me in human form, at least they are suitably hot although totally cliched with a blonde, a brunette and a redhead (why am I even saying cliched here?).
The werewolves look fantastic in wolf mode, love the thin pointed [i]Batman[/i] type ears and overall colour schemes. Hated the transformation process though, instead of morphing they rip their skin off or shed which just doesn't seem right to me. That sorta indicates they would have multiple layers of skin going on and on plus what would their actual origin form be because there would always be another form underneath if you get me. The continuity is also off with the transformation because in some scenes their form seems to melt off.
Frankenstein's monster has a nice touch of the olde worlde steampunk theme going on about his person. I liked the jets of steam coming from his leg hinges/hydraulics and the metallic body sections, almost cyborg-like, but I didn't think much of the green CGI electric current on view in his head plates...bit too far there. On the flip side Van Helsing sports the usual superhero-esque long trench coat, broad rimmed hat and face hiding scarf in a dark brown colour scheme, but his weapons have a lovely steampunk style to them with a nice old fashioned cogs and wheels mechanical aspect (18th Century remember). Van Helsing feels very much like a historic version of 'Blade' and 'James Bond' rolled into one, and of course to complete that air of coolness he has his nerdy bumbling sidekick who supplies him with all his monster killing gadgets.
What I really couldn't get on with was the quite bizarre 'Alien' rip off where Dracula is trying to raise an army of his minions who have been incubated in 'Alien-esque' eggs! Apparently when vampires mate they create a sort of flying Gremlin/gargoyle type creature...in an egg, does the female vampire lay an egg or something?? The only way to do this is by using power generated from Frankenstein's monster? I think that was the game, beats me why. I also must ask why Dracula has hordes of little munchkins wearing gas masks as his henchmen, who the hell are they suppose to be? surely other vampires or zombies or something would have been better. Oh and where exactly is Dracula's icy fortress suppose to be? the good guys go through a portal of some kind to get there...sooooo is it not in Transylvania?
There are many bits that I could mention that frustrate me and force me to nit pick, I know its a daft Sommers film but it could of been a classic Sommers film had these things been different. There are VAST amounts of CGI throughout the film which at times work but at others look dreadful (more so than 'The Mummy' films, quality and quantity wise). Things like the little Transylvanian town at the start, Frankenstein's castle, moody skylines, werewolves, Dracula's Brides and some gore look really neat. On the flip side there is the entire action sequence finale where things get so absurd and incredible as the heroes leap around between these towers with ropes, seemingly invincible to everything that the film becomes a hyper cartoon. Again I know you're meant to leave you're brain at the door but really, some of the feats pull you right out of the film they are so super ridiculous. I also hated the awful looking CGI enhanced vampire jaws when vampires in human form roared or hissed showing their fangs. Why is that necessary? just use makeup and their real mouths! it looks like something out of the Mortal kombat films ugh!
A guilty CGI pleasure though must be the all out badass battle between a werewolf Van Helsing and Dracula in full winged demon form. Its a total CGI fest of course but these two monsters are pretty sweet looking and I simply can't resist it, just what a monster mash requires, almost on form with a Godzilla vs King Kong face off...almost. So yes the entire thing is practically 'The Mummy' in Transylvania but if you're of a fan of this classic genre then it should still win you over. Ironic that the film may have been even more spectacular if they had squeezed in a few mummies and maybe a creature from the Black Lagoon, overkill? nah that comes as standard with Stephen Sommers.
Actually after the opening pastiche of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie, I thought this had the potential to be a 5 star movie. It was very atmospheric and had me hooked. However the film never really captures any sense of magic from there onwards.
The main body of the movie does go on a bit, and it could have done with some attempt to create engaging characters. Plot and story are not always necessary for fun movies, but you do need characters with a level of interest to capture the mind, otherwise you tend to find yourself not giving a s**t. I felt Van Helsing did verge into this territory, but for the most part it's so fast paced this doesn't matter so much. The points where it does try to introduce plot are the moments where it really does fail. In fact there is too much going on that is never really explained, and I think it would've been better not to have bothered at all, than use the nonsense Sommers resorts too. For example the attempts at backstory to Van Helsing. Better to have one of those interlude chatty scenes you have in the Indy films, where it establishes he's a dude, rather than the poor attempts at angst and pathos. Really bad was the moment he gets upset over Frankie's Monster. What the hell was that all about?
Hmm maybe I took that a bit seriously, but the movie knows what it is, why try be something else. I also thought that that masked ball sequence was a natural conclusion, the eventual finale at the castle felt like an add on, which lacked any real punch.
Far better was Van's introduction to Transylvania, with the benefit of some neat angles and panning shots, the crossbow battle with the brides was cool. The coach chase was exciting without being exhilarating, but kept the flow going, so it's a shame some more bad plot gets thrown in, especially when it was involving the underwritten Velkan. That's the film's main problem - overkill of characters, with little space given to any of them to evolve.
Finally a word on the CGI. I thought it was very good, especially the morphs that were used. The very first moment Drac starts to turn made me jump a touch, and when the vampires turns into their fanged, contorted state it looked pretty scary to me. The wolfman transformation, with the ripping flesh looked genuinely painful. At this point I was thinking the CGI was genuinely stunning. I'd have preferred the finale if it had just been Van vs Drac though, having CGI characters fight felt uninvolving, and Drac in snarly state was far better than the beast he turns into.
This is a movie to genuinely switch of the brain and enjoy. At times there's too much going on and perhaps a bit too much swinging about for my liking, but it's an adrenaline filled ride
this film is funny and exciting and a good fantasy vapire/werewolf film , theres a fantastic werewolf fight scene against dracula and is a fantastic movie and one to watch on a rainy day !
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.
No doubt many a viewer will want to slow roast this piece of cinematic excess over a crackling fire, and perhaps maybe the director and cast as well. While Van Helsing may be no masterpiece, it is certainly a bit much to say this is the worst film ever made. Granted, there is more CGI here than there is actual cast, and it gets to be nauseating. The problem with CGI is that it just doesn't look real. You can tell that forbidding castle and those green-baby-bat-things and are fake. The only thing less genuine in this movie is Kate Beckinsale's atrocious Romanian accent, which simply grates on the ears. (I haven't been this offended since Dennis Quaid tried to do New Orleans in "The Big Easy.") Hugh Jackman's a poor actor, and this is rather poor material, so at least there's a match there.
Nevertheless I have to give the devil his due. "Van Helsing" turns out to be good, campy, badly-acted fun. If our senses are overloaded with monsters, explosions, and relatively bloodless violence, at least we enjoy it. It's everything a campy movie should be: A fix of mindless testosterone injected straight into the cerebral cortex. If we've all turned into culture junkies then at least here's a good score.
/ Mr. Hyde. Pretty cool when he blows his arm off. Van Helsing has all this cool secret agent gear that James Bond can only dream and wish for. He goes after Dracula and on his way bumps into the wolf man, Igor, and Frankenstein, in this movie Frankenstein is a pretty cool dude. Anyway movie closes with all the possibilities of a sequel so its been 5 years where is our sequel. Its in my collection, I imagine on a 42 inch flat screen it would be awesome. 4 stars.