Right, so this film is terrible. I think we can all agree on that. The only reason I watched it again is I saw this as a HUGE wasted opportunity for Universal pictures. Originally intended to be a sort of reboot of the classic Universal Monsters line-up for contemporary audiences, the release also coincided with DVD reissues of the original films as well.
We meet the infamous Van Helsing, an enigmatic Monster Hunter in the employ of the Catholic Church. Van Helsing is played well enough by Hugh Jackman, but anything he may have done well is overshadowed by the seemingly endless piles of shit littering the film.
The creature designs for the Vampires and Werewolves look decent enough, but they fall apart once rendered in this films flagrantly over-used CGI. They are left looking like something out of a particularly cool looking cartoon. Post-Interview with a Vampire, pre-Twilight, Vampires were still pretty popular and had not worn out their welcome yet. Still, somehow Van Helsing manages to give us some of the most insufferable Vampires ever depicted. OK, its kinda cool that when they Vamp out they turn into a kind of Demonic Bat Human hybrid…but was it really necessary to depict the Vamps cloaks/dresses morphing into their wings? What happens if they are naked? Do they still get wings? Fuck sakes… I can’t remember who played Dracula, nor do I care to look it up… It felt like the dude was trying very hard to imitate Bela Lugosi, and as you can imagine, he fails. Dracula is one of the most famous characters of all time, if you are going to portray this character effectively, you need to bring something special to the role. Also, one of the Brides is far too tan, Ginger, and big-titted for me to ever buy that she was once a Romanian villager.
Yup…that’s how they’ve decided Frankensteins monster looks now. It’s like Frankie just decided to stitch on extra muscles when assembling him. The one thing about this abomination of an abomination that I enjoyed is the idea of the Monster being a tragic, misunderstood, and sympathetic character…even if he was overly articulate. Its not all bad though. The visuals in the film as stunning. Everything from the set design to character design(apart from the silly looking Frankenstein) looks fantastic. I’ve already mentioned Jackman doing a good job, but Kate Beckinsale deserves praise here too, although if she hasn’t already planned on fighting Vampires and Werewolves while wearing a Corset, I really have no idea what else she would do with her time. My favorite character was sadly killed off early on. The Creepy Undertaker.
He had a presence about him that made me want to know what that creepy lil fuck was up to. He distrusts outsiders, Morbidly goes about measuring them for caskets during conversations, and even tries to kill Van Helsing, simply stating “It’s my nature”. I would have enjoyed the film far more if he were tagging along with the hero’s the whole time, working towards the same goal of killing Dracula, but still taking any opportunity to cause trouble and sew dissent.
If you have no particular affinity for the classic Universal Monsters, or aren’t much of a fan of Horror films, then this film actually works fairly well as an action/fantasy film. Its got all the right ingredients to succeed with mainstream audiences, except for heart. As we’ll discuss in later entries, the re-boot train has not stopped rolling, but does appear to be riding much more smoothly. Ultimately, Van Helsing was ambitious, and had some great ideas…but I think it stands as an example of what NOT to do.