The Name's Helsing, Van Velsing
Having dispatched Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman - x2) heads back to the Vatican for his next mission. He is told to go to Transylvania where he must help protect Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale - Serendipity) and rid her of Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) and his minions. Having got there and with Carl (David Wenham) a Vatican inventor along for the ride, Van Helsing soon discovers that dealing with Dracula is not going to be as straightforward as he hoped.
The first thing which hit me when it comes to "Van Helsing" is not the storyline, acting or anything else which should be important but the special effects. From the opening scenes where we watch Van Helsing hunting down Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right through to the credits there is not a single scene which doesn't feel like it has been embellished by CGI. And for me it makes it all rather dull, there is no differentiation between a building scene and a moment of action and as such it loses the wow factor. Add to this lavish sets and costumes and "Van Helsing" is a very visual movie which audiences who don't like to be mentally challenged whilst watching a movie may find great pleasure in. But it ends up making the focus of the movie the CGI enhanced look rather than anything else.
Now I don't know much about the character Van Helsing but there is almost a James Bond feel to things as Van Helsing goes to the Vatican to get his next mission. That may not sound hugely James Bond-ish but the underground workshop where a Friar named Carl makes gizmo's and gadgets to aid in his mission certainly does. Strangely it then merges with a bit of the "Indiana Jones" as Van Helsing heads off to Transylvania with Carl in tow, who ends up a comedy sidekick. The mix although sort of well worked ends up giving it a feeling of being a bit of a spoof, with various overly manufactured moments of comedy.
Talking of comedy, well a lot of the jokes, the humorous snippets of dialogue which Carl spouts end up all rather banal and unfunny. But that's not the only issue when it comes to the dialogue because for the most it is corny as hell, maybe intentionally so but it just adds to that feeling that "Van Helsing" was heading towards spoof status. And the dialogue is not helped by some of the most painfully over the top accents I have heard in a movie since the days when monster movies were all the rage.
That nicely brings me to my next issue and that is "Van Helsing" also has a feeling of those old monster movies with Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Monster and Igor all living in a gloriously gothic world. Except times have seriously moved on since the days of monster movies yet director Stephen Sommers seems intent on recreating them almost in the same style as when they were, making the monsters all a little too over the top.
None of what I have just said makes "Van Helsing" that great a movie and nor does the storyline which appears to come way down the list of priorities. Take away that we have Van Helsing in Transylvania battling Dracula and what you have is a basic good guy goes after bad guys and along the way picks up a love interest. Yep we're back to James Bond again except there is no intelligence to the "Van Helsing" storyline, nothing which is clever, or really gets us on the edge of our seats as danger and action ensue. But as I said it is obvious that the storyline is low down the list of priorities as "Van Helsing" relies heavily on the sense of visual to try and entertain.
It's quite ironic that Hugh Jackman was cast as Van Helsing because here we have an action hero who has a bit of a memory loss over his past which is a bit familiar to what he already did in the "X-Men" movies. Needless to say Jackman carries off the hunky hero quite well, stripping to the waste to show off his physique as he spouts some of the most banal dialogue in the movie. But it's a confused performance, delivering over the top emotion in fitting with the whole sense of over dramatics which dominate the movie. Kate Beckinsale is little better as Anna Valerious who spends more time vamping it up in her figure hugging outfit than anything else, a treat for the eyes maybe but impossible to take seriously as a character and the same can be said of Richard Roxburgh as Count Vladislaus Dracula and David Wenham as Van Helsing's sidekick Carl.
What this all boils down to is that if all you want is a visual experience, a movie which trades on action overly emblazoned with special effects then "Van Helsing" will probably entertain. But if you expect anything more such as intelligent writing, clever dialogue, seriousness and top notch acting then you are either going to be left disappointed or bemused by it all. For me it was disappointing, I wanted something more than just special effects but "Van Helsing" is not completely terrible just not what I hoped it to be.