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First a word of warning. There are a number of people who would be best
advised to avoid Van Helsing. If you dislike cgi, if you're a purist,
if you're looking for something "realistic", or if you're looking for a
slower-moving, understated film that's a deep character study, you'll
more than likely hate this film.
Set around the turn of the 20th Century, Van Helsing features the titular hero (Hugh Jackman) taking a break from his usual "monster slayer" activities, which are commissioned by the Catholic Church, to pursue a grand plot initiated by Dracula (Richard Roxburg) involving the Frankenstein Monster (Shuler Hensley), the Wolf Man (Will Kemp), and the two last surviving members of a Transylvanian family that has long been battling the vampire.
Van Helsing is a fast-paced, computer graphics-laden horror/adventure/fantasy film wherein Universal re-imagines its core stable of classic horror characters. I actually like cgi, I'm not a purist, I love the genres--I'm not looking for realism, and I love fast-paced action-oriented thrill rides as much if not more than I love character studies.
As for the character remakes, Van Helsing becomes a slick retro-Matrix-styled macho action hero, part James Bond/007, part Indiana Jones, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a secret Catholic Church order filling in for the Watcher's Council and the Bond "Q Branch" combined. Dracula becomes a suave, scheming, mad scientist who looks like a romance novel hero. Frankenstein's Monster becomes much closer to Mary Shelley's depiction of an intelligent, loquacious, tormented, slapdash victim of a misguided doctor. And the Wolf Man, when wolf, becomes a cgi generated over-sized, super-agile, hyperactive beast. That should already turn off all of the purists.
The look of the film is lush, with lots of unusual point of view shots, exotic locations and computer-generated environments. CGI is used extensively for the human characters in the film as well as the monsters--it's frequently employed to enable physics defying stunts and amazing, far-ranging "computer camera" transitions. Van Helsing provides a good argument for such extensive digital assistance, as many of the visuals would be simply impossible to achieve through any other means and substituting some of the creatures with mechanicals, animatronics, special effects makeup and the like would have caused the film to go far over its already outrageous estimated budget of 160 million.
The plot, while not deep on characterization, couldn't be more full of events and action. Combined with the extravagant visuals and quickly changing, sprawling locations, the result is epic in scope. Director/writer Stephen Sommers, who was also responsible for remaking the image of another classic Universal character in The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) (probably the reason the Mummy is not present in here), begins Van Helsing in a black and white scene that wonderfully recreates the feel of the James Whale-lensed Frankenstein films, including referencing a number of shots, scenes and characters from those classics.
After the titles, we move into a color-filled world ala The Wizard of Oz while we're treated to a brief character-establishing scene of Van Helsing battling Mr. Hyde in the bell tower of Notre Dame. Sommers then quickly whisks us away to the Vatican, where Van Helsing receives his orders.
This whirlwind beginning can be almost overwhelming--it certainly is visually--and it takes a moment to get up to speed and catch our breath, but once we settle into the town square of Transylvania, we're enraptured by the story and the pacing reaches a more sustainable level. Although fantastical at heart, the performances from the principle cast members help anchor the film in "reality". Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Roxburgh, Henley and David Wenham all turn in nuanced performances that imply the depth of character that the film does not have the time to fully explore.
The intense action throughout the film combined with the cgi and spectacular sweeping camera moves often gives Van Helsing a feel somewhere between a comic book film and a video game. That fact might turn some viewers off, but as innovative, suspenseful, exciting filmic art, this is years ahead of most other recent releases. In fact, the sophisticated technological wizardry and entrancing epic storytelling is somewhat reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings films, which makes me wonder just what other viewers see in those to enable them to consistently sit high on the IMDb Top 250 list while Van Helsing struggles to attain a slightly above average rating. Perhaps Van Helsing deserves a more tempered first or second viewing from those who have summarily dismissed it due to unjustified expectations/preconceptions. This really is an outstanding film that at least deserves to be appreciated on a technical level, and should be easy enough to enjoy for its action-oriented storytelling prowess as well.
I'm really baffled at the hateful negative response to this film. No
it's not Oscar material, it's just good campy fun. If you're a fan of
old monster movies, James Bond and Indiana Jones flicks, and
over-the-top humor in an action/horror movie, then you get it. I guess
if you're looking for a summer action flick that takes itself too
seriously, then you're out of luck with this one.
I admit that the film runs a little to long, the chemistry between Beckinsale and Jackman leaves something to be desired, and the Frankenstein "monster" (though well-intentioned to give a nod to "Young Frankenstein") is really annoying. But the entertainment spawning from the hokey fun that "Van Helsing" is all about, makes these flaws so forgivable.
For me, I'll take the over-acting screaming Brides of Dracula, the silly homages to dozens of classic action and horror movies, the cheesy one-liners, and the not-so-convincing special effects. Isn't that what monster movies are all about?
It's big, it's dumb, it's cheesy as hell, but I found it to be enormous
fun. This was made to be a roller-coaster ride and by that token it
should be judged.
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. I'd probably give it 7 out of 10.
Having watched the film (more than once)i must say that i think that the person who wrote the comment "A Stupid and Extremely Disappointing Movie" is being silghtly childish. You cannot watch a film like Van Helsing with out taking it with a pinch of salt - it is a movie with vampires, werewolves and the frankenstine monster in at all at once for goodness sake. So you cannot go in to it thinking in a literal sense. You have to accept that it is not going to be some ground breaking epic and that it is just a bit of fun - but at the end of the day that doesn't matter, because if you go in with the right attitude and you enjoy it, then what does it matter that it is a bit "off" in places. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would definitely recommend it to any one who likes action/fantasy films and is up for a bit of fun!
Many, many people have seen "Van Helsing" and said it is trash, a waste
of time, etc, etc. But what they don't understand is that sometimes,
with so much happening in the world, people need to let it all go so
they can get some thrills from movies.
The plot of Van Helsing is somewhere between simple and complex. The back story is that Count Dracula and his three brides have given birth to countless offspring throughout the hundreds of years they've been living as vampires. They themselves were created from the living, but their children were not. They were born of the undead, and have never had the chance to come to life... or the afterlife vampires live. They simply are dead.
Then, Dracula comes upon a mad scientist named Dr. Frankenstein, whom wants to discover the secret of creating life. He helps the doctor in his sort-of admirable task of creating life, hoping to use his creation to bring life to his children. But it is not to be. As the film opens, Dr. Frankenstein is killed by Dracula, who no longer needs him, and his monster, whom Dracula needs to give the essence of life to his children, appears to perish in a fire.
A year later, Gabriel Van Helsing, a tortured man without a past is sent to Transylvania by the "Holy Order"... An organization of all of the religions of the world. With the assistance of a trusty sidekick, the still living monster of Frankenstein and a beautiful young woman, he must hunt down and destroy Dracula before he can give life to his thousands of children.
The reason I gave this movie a 9 out of 10 is that is never seems to get the recognition it deserves. It has great action, great actors, and a great story. (At least for a summer film) It's not the type of movie to be taken seriously, it's the type to sit down with some friends, have some popcorn, and get ready for a silly, scary, fun ride. I love it!. 9/10
I personally love this kind of tongue-in-cheek, change of the usual film. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was that, as was Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. If people looked at them more as just visually entertaining with a bunch of sharp one-liners, and tried to stop making them the next big action movie, or trying to read a life change message somewhere in there, they'd have more fun! I loved the real mix of actors appearing in this movie - I was straight to IMDb after watching it to see if I was right or wrong about who played who. I especially liked the straight-in beginning - no credit break to kill the run of the film. The black-and-white beginning, going to colour soon after, was not new, but echoed nicely with the old Hollywood movies that the start was echoing. Altogether, a great fun watch. But that's just me!
This is a very "Stephen Sommers" film, were you not to know it is the same
director as the Mummy you would guess it within 20 minutes. However it
should be pointed out that this is not a bad thing at all.
The movie is a rip roaring adventure with some wonderful camp humour and
great special effects.
The plot consists of Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) being part of a special
order of the Vatican to kill all unhuman / evil creatures, so amazingly he
is sent of to Transylvania where he is to kill Dracula, the sub plot being
that Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) is the last in the line of a family
who's mission for centuries has been to kill Dracula themselves. If Anna
dies before Dracula, being the last in the line will condemn the whole
family to eternal damnation.
While the plot isn't the strongest in the world, it actually doesn't make any difference as the special effects and incredible pace of the film doesn't really give you much chance to contemplate any deeper meanings or plotlines.
The poster campaign has featured heavily on this film containing Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster, though there are other wonderful classic characters which make the film an even bigger joy to watch for example Igor and Dr Jekyll with the former character becoming a wonderful stereotype of the hunchbacked laboratory assistant.
Strangely, the chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale doesn't have the same spark or passion as Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in the Mummy saga, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the two characters are not the typical leading man and lady who will obviously fall in love, which again gives this film quite a refreshing edge.
David Wenham as Carl, a friar sent to look after Van Helsing gives the comedy edge with wonderful one liners and a constant cheeky glint in his eye.
The monsters themselves are a perfect homage to Hammer Horror / Boris Karloff films although I personally found Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) a little bit too camp and less evil although his character was certainly a more evil Dracula than has been seen recently. His 3 brides are possible the surprise highlight of the film turning from beautiful women to gargoyle-like creatures in a split second are a joy to watch in every sense of the word.
The wolfman metamorphosis is (as has been reported) an incredible piece of special effects, with the victim tearing off his skin to reveal fur and vice versa throughout the change. But the important thing here is the word victim! Stephen Sommers has kept very close to the original stories portraying the wolfman as a helpless victim "it's not his fault, he can't help it" and this is no truer than in the excellent portrayal of Frankensteins Monster (Shuler Hensley) who as written by Mary Shelley is not an evil creature out for destruction, but more a lost soul out simply to be able to exist.
My only complaint would be that some of the CGI effects take over. While Sommers has obviously learnt from the travesty that was the CGI Scorpion King, there are times when characters are swinging from walls and ropes that you feel you are watching an animation rather than a live film. However, because these effects are also extremely well done, it is more of a criticism on the viewer who has obviously been spoilt with such effects recently.
The pastiges of this film are truly a joy, with references to James Bond (in a highly enjoyable scene about selecting weapons), X-men, Matrix, Aliens, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Rocky Horror and countless other more obvious Horror classics.
Hugh Jackman (finally deserving his first lead role) is incredible and this role shows what a fantastic (and without doubt one of Hollywoods hunkiest) actors he is. This is truly his film and deservedly so, not that he ever wasn't in my eyes, but this film has now made him one of the industries hottest property!
This is an adventure of a film which all ages will enjoy and I highly recommend it, there isn't time to find fault as the pace will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
Yeah, I know this isn't a masterpiece of cinema and I can already tell
half this nation's populace hates it despite a good run at the box
office last summer. But still I went into this movie just looking for a
good time (that and am a huge fan of old school monster films) and
thats what I got. For the uptight and so called expert critics, let me
spell it out for you: ITS A POPCORN MOVIE! OF COURSE EVERYTHING GOING
TO BLOWN UP TO THE MAX AND GO OVER THE TOP! IF YOU CAN'T UNDERSTAND
THIS, THEN DON'T CLAIM YOU DO AND BASH A FILM BECAUSE OF IT! *Ahem*
alright on to my review.
Plot: Helsing and his assistant, a frair named Carl, are sent to Translvaynia to protect the last of a gypsy family from being stuck in purgatory due to a curse Dracula put on them. In the process however Helsing must also stop Drac's plan of engulfing the world in darkness all the while battling his minions. Throw in a plot device involving Frankenstein's monster and you have a pretty cool adventure brewing.
I'll admit for a movie that suppose to be about Helsing. They kinda dropped the ball on the story. There's way too much emphasis on the gypsy girl rather him and they don't flesh out his back story about his lost memory and his supposed history with Dracula. Also the movie has a few nonsense parts (the talk with the creepy undertaker) which kinda slows down the film a bit. But still the movie stays on a linear path and the set-ups up to confrontations are well done. Not to mention the confrontation themselves even if some are a little silly (ballroom scene (though a good homage to the Fearless Vampire Killers), the fight with the last bride, Igor and Dracula himself). Yes their CGI laden but I don't care, its a supernatural movie after all. So what better way to do them.
The actors seem very comfortable with their roles and looks to be having a great time. Extra props go out to the dude who played Frankenstien's monster, I was really feeling for him. Easily one of the best characters in the movie.
Add to that some excellent backdrops and clothes to which the film really draws you into its 19th century world. Yes the movie is full of flaws but it only for fun and only wants to entertain to which it success in spades. If you don't like it, well fine. But for all who love a good popcorn flick or a fan of old school monsters, you can look no further. Van Helsing is just the ticket for a simple good time.
If you're a purist-any kind of purist-stay away from Van Helsing. But if
love the Universal horror films of the 30's and 40's or the Hammer films
the 50's and 60's and don't mind re-imagining them, then go. Check your
brain at the door, buy a large popcorn and a soda and sit back for a fun
The film is a complete reworking of everything you think you know about all the big guys. Present for your enjoyment are Dracula, the Wolf man, Frankenstein's monster and a guest appearance by Mr. Hyde. And of course, tying the whole thing together is our hero, Van Helsing (yummily played by Hugh Jackman). Named Abraham in Stoker's book but called Gabriel in the film, VH doesn't appear in any book other than Dracula, but in the more than a century since his `birth' we've become accustomed to his presence as the elder statesman of monster killers.
Completely re-imagined in this new production, VH is now young, handsome, and virile and apparently as immortal and indestructible as the creatures he chases. Don't expect great resolutions or deep explanations here, there are none. Don't expect Academy Award level acting, some of the actors apparently phoned in their performances while others decided to take up the slack. The resultant scenery chewing is uneven, but never boring. The dialogue, not to put too fine a point on it, is absurd and sometimes unintentionally, howlingly funny.
The makers of this film are clearly fans of the genre. The subject matter is treated with a loving sledgehammer. As the film progressed my companion and I made a game of naming all the classics represented. In addition to those you might expect, we were able to recognize allusions to `Young Frankenstein,' `Star Wars,' `Aliens,' `Raiders of the Lost Ark,' `Gremlins,' `Romancing the Stone,' `Lord of the Rings,' `Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' `Twister,' "Wild, Wild West" and any James Bond film you care to name among others. If you go, try it yourself.
If the producers were intending to frighten us, they failed dismally; but if they only intended to entertain us they succeeded, if not brilliantly, at least admirably. I'm uncertain if they intended quite so much humor, but both my companion and I laughed out loud most of the way through.
In addition to inside jokes, the film is filled with extraordinary visual images. From the opening encounter between VH and a startlingly oversized and athletic Edward Hyde, physicality is the order of the day. Everyone, including Van Helsing's friar sidekick is a magnificent specimen. Even Frankenstein's monster (who I nicknamed `Sparky' for the electrical discharges from his partially exposed brain) is hideously beautiful. Also, the cinematography is breathtaking. Both real scenery and CGI imagined are dazzling. I especially loved the castles Dracula and Frankenstein. Both edifices were Mad Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle as imagined by Tim Burton. I'd almost say that if the film had no other virtues at all, it would still be worth the price of admission for the incredible beauty of its backgrounds. However, the real star of the film is the (you guessed it) special effects.
Transformation scenes abound. At any point in the film you are only moments from watching someone turn into something. And what wonderful things they are. Vampires don't become simple bats, but snake-jawed, full size harpies. The Wolf man sprouts saber tooth fangs as he rips the human skin from his body. Frankenstein's monster's flesh partially peels from his skull and is smoothly pushed back into place and Mr. Hyde morphs from grinning giant menace to pitiful human corpse.
Not to put too fine a point on it, everyone-vampires, villagers, heroes, even horses and cattle go airborne sometime during the film. Dracula's three brides take the prize for most hang time. These ladies would be a wonderful asset to the Transylvanian Air Force with their dizzying dives, spins and barrel rolls. The camera gives us a bat's eye view of their deadly aerobatic ballet. When not in full flight Dracula and his wives walk up walls, across ceilings and carry on family quarrels while hanging from the rafters by their toes. Those characters that do not fly on their own power are lifted aloft and usually dropped soon after. The rest are climbers, scrambling up and down castle architecture like houseflies on speed. Interestingly, no one is ever seriously hurt or even has a hairstyle mussed.
The scenes shift so rapidly that it becomes difficult at times to follow the story. Fortunately, the gossamer plot is as deep as a kiddie's backyard swimming pool, so it isn't too much of a problem. Only the barest bones are needed to carry us from one action sequence to the next. Although there is no nudity and not a cussword is uttered, the film is violent. Well, of course it's violent--and about as traumatic as a Road Runner cartoon. Still, it earns its PG-13 rating. Leave the little 'uns home. The throbbing, pounding soundtrack keeps the attention even when not very much is happening.
Is Van Helsing a great film? No. Absolutely not. Is it a good film? No, not really. Is it entertaining? Yes. And maybe, just maybe, that's enough.
Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. Were it not for these two gifted
performers, this movie would be beyond silly. As it is, the plot is
almost pretextual for the special effects.
The Eye Candy factor is high, though. Hugh Jackman as the tortured hero, filmed in the dark all of the time, makes us weak in the knees. Kate Beckinsale does magnificent physical feats while squeezed into a corset.
The story: Van Helsing (Jackman) is essentially a bounty hunter of supernatural monsters, a job he took on at the request of the church as apparent penitence for sins he cannot even remember. As a reward for his centuries of service, he hopes to make his way to Heaven instead of Hell.
Anna (Kate Beckinsale) is the last survivor of a family of Transylvanian vampire hunters. Her brother has become a werewolf and she is conflicted about whether he should live or die.
Naturally Anna and Van Helsing team up to rid Transylvania of the evil vampire overlord. Van Helsing has a tool kit Batman would envy, and Anna maintains an arsenal of monster-killing weapons that would make a survivalist proud. Between the two of them, the monsters don't stand a chance.
Put your mind on hold, suspend disbelief and intolerance for the occasional leap of reason, enjoy a slightly randy friar (Van Helsing's sidekick), and go along for the ride. Van Helsing is a great Sunday afternoon video.
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