Van Helsing – A Jaded and Biased Review


Well folks, it’s time to end the 2012 four part creature feature review series. What’s that? Why am I ending the creature feature series now when there is still another Tuesday in October? It’s simple, because I can. Besides, I have something planned for the final week. (And no it’s not one of the Halloween… or Saw movies. That’s just too easy.) Where was I again? Oh Right! Review number four. The last 3 reviews were about werewolves, vampires and the Frankenstein monster. So this final review in the series is a movie about werewolves, vampires and the Frankenstein monster.

In 1887, the Transylvanian doctor, Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) brings to life his monster (Shuler Hensley) with the aid of his assistant, Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) and Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Dracula kills Victor Frankenstein after revealing that he helped him only so he could use Frankenstein’s monster to bring his undead children to life. Then Frankenstein’s monster escapes to a windmill, which is burned down by a pursuing mob.

One year later, the Knights of the Holy Order, stationed at the Vatican, dispatch Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) to kill Dracula. He is also tasked with preventing the last of the Valerious family from falling into purgatory. The family swore to kill Dracula nine generations ago and is unable to enter Heaven until they succeed. Van Helsing is joined by Carl (David Wenham), a friar who provides support and weapons.

“Van Helsing” has, in my not-so-humble opinion, a cool premise. A late 1800’s Ethan Hunt (from the Mission Impossible movies) style paranormal/monster hunter fighting the things that go bump in the night. Sadly, while the premise was good, the execution of the film was not. I hadn’t seen this film since its 2004 theatrical release but I remembered being very disappointed. As a result, I came into this review with low expectations and still ended up underwhelmed.

This is supposed to be one of those high octane, non-stop action adventure movies, but frankly I was bored during the first and third acts. The biggest reason I was bored is that the movie suffers from what I refer to as Modern George Lucas Film Making – which means a director decides to ignore minor things (such as story, acting, cinematography and chemistry) so that he or she can fill the movie with as much CGI as possible. The action scenes in the first and third acts of this film lose a lot of tension, excitement and depth in order to show the audience “See how pretty our CGI effects & monsters are. Isn’t it impressive?” This style of film making is something that writer/director Stephen Sommers seems to be guilty of whenever studios give him a large budget.

Part of the lack of detail in directing can be seen in offensive performances given by Richard Roxburg and Shuler Hensley. To say that they both turned in over-the-top hammy, scenery chewing performances would be a serious understatement, especially Roxburg as Dracula. Both actors seem to dispassionately yell every line of dialog they are given. In Hensley’s role as the Frankenstein monster this is a little more forgivable as most of his scenes involve angrily being discovered, angrily being captured, or being chained outside in the middle of a storm. Their acting might have been fine if this was a campy movie, but nothing else in the film would even suggest that this was supposed to be a campy movie.

In the end, I feel disappointed and saddened by Van Helsing. I was disappointed by the overall quality of the film and saddened by what could have been. Not only was Universal planning to make this a franchise but, prior to its release, Fox had given the green light to a TV series that revolved around this film’s Frankenstein monster. When the movie received poor reviews (and didn’t recoup its budget in the U.S. market) Fox pulled the plug on the Frankenstein TV show. Even though I just trashed the actor who played the Frankenstein monster, the concept of the monster and what he does after the film could have made a very intriguing and cool TV show. (Which means that Fox probably would have canceled it after about 6 episodes!) In May 2012 Universal Pictures announced that they are rebooting the film with Tom Cruise as the title character. I really hope that they make a better film on their second try.

Rating: Netflix

Fun factor: 60%

Sincerely, THE Brian



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