“Some say you’re a murderer. Others say you’re a holy man. Which is it?” “It’s a bit of both, I think.” Laughable dialogue like this plagues Steven Sommers’s (The Mummy) Van Helsing, along with poor special effects and a plot that is more hole-ridden than holy.There is nothing original or interesting about this movie. I mean unoriginal not insomuch that this movie is a showcase of references and homages to old fantasy and horror creations like Count Dracula and Frankenstein; my grievances lie in this movie’s continuously borrowed and trite plot elements.
The storyline roughly follows that of a James Bond movie. Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is an agent for the seminary whose job it is to travel around Europe and vanquish evil creatures. He performs his work in a serious yet reckless fashion so reminiscent of Dirty Harry that he is unconcerned even about breaking the stained glass windows of the Cathédrale Notre Dame. He is given by a slide-show his latest assignment–essentially to assist some family to vanquish Count Dracula. After an especially Quirky science-type monk equips Van Helsing with the latest in olde timey weaponry and gadgets, Van Helsing sets out to Transylvania. The rest of this movie consists of Van Helsing fighting flying vampiresses that are louder and more irksome than they are treacherous. He makes the acquaintance of a typically beautiful yet self-reliant female counterpart (Anna Valerious, played by Kate Beckinsale) of equal badass quality. Together, they take on Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburgh).
Oh Hugh Jackman, how did you find yourself in this mess? You were an excellent Wolverine, a reasonably complex and interesting character, but Van Helsing makes Wolverine look like Hamlet. Jackman adds some charm to the role, but Van Helsing is adorned like The Matrix’s Neo, with an Indiana Jones hat and an Aragorn-like ruggedness thrown in. It’s a pretty awkward melange in execution, and I’m surprised that even the goth inhabitants of 1870 Europe take him seriously.
Something develops between Van Helsing, Dracula, Anna Valerious, her werewolf brother and their father, but it’s really not interesting or worth understanding. Helsing gets a little disgusting at times yet never really scary, despite its horror movie elements. In fact, it’s not provocative of any remarkable emotion except regret for having sat down to watch it. Rather than being a murderer or a holy man, Van Helsing is essentially just a terrible film. Save your money for repeated viewing’s of Shrek 2.
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