Director: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Weapon of Choice: Teeth
Based upon: Just about everything
Other movies in this series:
The tyranist's thoughts
I could look to make sure, but I bet we were four years into working on the HFC before we started to seriously go after the classic Universal monster flicks. I honestly hadn't seen many of them before then, but I really enjoyed them when I did finally get around to it. Now here we are and Stephen Sommers is back to do for the rest of the Universal Monster flock what he did for The Mummy.
So a man named Van Helsing, who apparently doesn't remember who he is (remind you of another Hugh Jackman character?) and works for the Vatican, traipses around Europe taking on supernatural elements that threaten humanity. His newest assignment lies in Eastern Europe, Transylvania to be precise.
Saying this is based on the classic Universal Monsters is a little misleading. All of them are here and certain parts of the stories we are familiar with are encountered, but really, this is a whole new level of story. It's also a glossed up summer action flick, which may or may not make you favour it. I know some that wanted more from the summer action flick and couldn't have cared less that these characters ever graced the screen before now.
What made the film completely enjoyable to me (other than Kate Beckinsale, who seems to transform any movie she's in into something engaging) was the mythology. If you've followed along for a while, you'll know that I'm entranced by original takes and unusual combinations of existing monster mythology. And that is really what is to offer here.
I chuckled at the James Bond spoof, and really enjoyed the Mr. Hyde scene, but for me the magic was in the back story of Dracula and Van Helsing, the purpose of the Brides and Frankenstein's Monster, and the place of werewolves in the scheme of things. Granted, where the mythology is strong, the story is sometimes weak, but would you really be sitting in a darkened theatre during the summer season for story?
I for one, really enjoyed this movie and will probably enjoy it again someday. But it probably isn't for everyone. In fact, if you didn't enjoy the originals, I'd say you should lower your expectations before going in, and if you did, you might still be disappointed.
I had a great deal of excitement toward this film, citing it as my second most-anticipated film of the summer (I really dig that Harry Potter). That may explain some of my disappointment in Van Helsing, a flick that had a lot to live up to, but still should've been great.
Tyranist already detailed the plot, so I'll just say that I dig Hugh Jackman, a smooth-looking guy, talented, and friendly. And Kate Beckinsale remains one of the most beautiful women in the world (heck, maybe the universe). There are dazzling setpieces and digital backgrounds, some clever nods to old Universal horror flicks, and a lot of action, battles, escapes and near misses, interspersed liberally with plenty of comic relief.
Someone famous once said, "Less is more." I'm not sure who that was. Could've been Karen Carpenter, I don't know. But with Dracula, vampire babes/harpies, undead servants, Igor, flying imps, Dr. Frankenstein, the Frankenstein Monster, Mr. Hyde, the torch-wielding mob, and werewolves, there were just too many monsters, folks.
The film tires as it goes along, I think, probably peaking in the black & white prologue, which I watched with an amazed grin on my face. The special effects also get weaker as the film goes, with the climactic battle between Good and Evil looking like a video game cutscene.
As my buddy said, Jackman plays a very Wolverine-type character in Van Helsing; he has no memory (the villain knows everything, though, and is not telling), is unstoppable, and has lots of hair. Beckinsale is also playing a familiar character: an extraordinarily hot, athletically talented enemy of supernatural villains. Strange that those two would play such similar roles back to back.
I think a lot of the feelings I had regarding The Mummy Returns are echoed here: there was just too many characters, too much going on, too much action, too little story, too many special effects, too light an attitude taken. I felt it was a pretty empty experience.
Which isn't to say that the film isn't worth seeing: it's fun, it's exciting, the premise is clever, some of the mythology is entertainingly unique, and the monsters are fantastic. I know that Universal was looking for a franchise here, but much like the recent Daredevil (and even Spider-man to a certain extent), they packed far too much into this one movie, leaving little room to go in a sequel, and even less need in the audience's mind.
Total Skulls: 13
|Rips off earlier film|
|Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie|
|Future celebrity appears|
|Former celebrity appears|
|Girl unnecessarily gets naked|
|Death associated with sex|
|Unfulfilled promise of nudity|
|Characters forget about threat|
|Power is cut|
|Phone lines are cut|
|Someone investigates a strange noise|
|Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door|
|Camera is the killer|
|Victims cower in front of a window/door|
|Victim locks self in with killer|
|Victim running from killer inexplicably falls|
|Toilet stall scene|
|Car stalls or won't start|
|Cat jumps out|
|Stupid discovery of corpse|
|No one believes only witness|
|Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth|
|Warning goes unheeded|
|Music detracts from scene|
|Death in first five minutes|
|x years before/later|
|Dark and stormy night|
|Killer doesn't stay dead|
|Killer wears a mask|
|Killer is in closet|
|Killer is in car with victim|
|Villain is more sympathetic than heroes|
|Blood spatters - camera, wall, etc.|
|Poor death effect|
|No one dies at all|
|Little kid lamely survives|
|Dog/Pet miraculously survives|
|"It was all a dream" ending|
|Unbelievably happy ending|
|Unbelievably crappy ending|
|What the hell?|