May 11, 2004 > Van Helsing
Director: Stephen Sommers
by Jeremy Inman
Van Helsing, which opened Friday, May 7th, is stitched together with dozens of scenes ripped almost verbatim from other movies. Aside from being composed of various clips from Batman, The Matrix, Indiana Jones, Wizard of Oz, Sleepy Hollow, James Bond and even X-men and Spiderman, Van Helsing is a story that takes legendary literary characters, dices them up into laughable caricatures and slaps them down like macaroni on glue into one giant, steaming pile of celluloid suicide. Dracula looks like he should be a hair dresser and runs around collecting monsters like Pokemon. Frankenstein's Monster stomps around Transylvania in a Paddington Bear raincoat, and every supporting monster appears to be straight out of a Jim Henson puppet show.
Seasoned vampire hunter, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) stalks through a number of obviously computer-generated environments dressed up like Zorro, spouting failed catch-phrases and spook lines, each punctuated by a lighting flash. Similar to recent Sommers films (i.e. The Mummy and the Mummy Returns), dialogue is restricted to cheesy one-liners and flat jokes. Any fragment of a coherent storyline is lost in a storm of convoluted side tales that wind up leading to nothing.
Apparently, Van Helsing is a monster hunter who works for an ancient underground organization aimed at protecting mankind from the stereotypical evil. The agency discovers the whereabouts of Count Dracula in the Romanian village of Transylvania, where he is attempting to use the technology of Doctor Frankenstein to breed a race of infant vampires (Insert lighting flash!). Van Helsing travels to Transylvania to meet a band of Dracula hunters headed by Kate Beckinsale's character, Anna Valerious. Anna's family has been hunting Dracula for centuries. On top of her vampire problems, Anna's brother has fallen victim to a werewolf, thus becoming a werewolf himself. Apparently, Dracula needs a werewolf to channel energy from lighting bolts in order to create his children.
Try not to think too much about the plot (?). What it boils down to is approximately two hours of over-extended monster against monster fight scenes separated by inexplicable plot points conveyed through dialogue that almost always ends in a flash of lightning. The only salvageable pieces of this "train wreck" of a film are a few brief snippets of impressive computer graphic work, some fleeting moments of top-notch action, and a scene involving Doctor Jekyll's alter-ego, the Hulk-like Mr. Hyde. All of it falls short since no single element of this movie is original in any way. As a matter of fact, there's even a scene in which the dialogue identical with another movie. See if you can figure out which one it is.
In spite of all its problems, Van Helsing is still fun to watch. If you're in the mood for a campy popcorn flick, over-the-top action sequences, and cheesy one-liners, then Van Helsing is for you. If Sommers was seeking to recreate the magic of the first remake of the Mummy, it didn't happen. He did create something entirely new; but unfortunately, there is no mad scientist to bring this monster to life.