Van Helsing

Dir: Stephen Sommers
Star: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham

Sometimes, the MPAA tells you all you need to know: "Rated PG-13 for nonstop creature action violence". No kidding. Nonstop is certainly the word, though the result is not unlike having someone shout at you for two hours: Sommers needs to learn that even the most extreme roller-coasters let you breathe now and again. While reviving the old Universal monsters is certainly a nice idea for a franchise, rather than tossing them all in their first time up, they'd have been better with a straight-forward Dracula vs. Van Helsing approach. This would have let them go for depth, rather than throwing in baby vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein's monster, and even Jekyll + Hyde, swinging from the Notre Dame bell-tower, f'heaven's sake.

Jackman and Wenham make a solid pairing as master and servant, though with Beckinsale's gypsy girl, it's all very reminiscent of the trio in Captain Kronos. However, a lot of the CGI is distinctly ropey; the sets are excellent, but the flying vamps and wolfman are particularly obvious, and the final battle pits the two against each other. You won't fall asleep, but there isn't time for much heart - or anything, except empty spectacle. There's a lot of that; it seems every bit of its 135 minutes, and the presence of a clock which, for plot purposes, takes forever to strike twelve, is probably symptomatic. We also learn that when a man becomes a werewolf, his trousers automatically turn into cutoff shorts. If you can get past that, you'll probably enjoy this more.

May 2004

Van Helsing prepares to
make his point
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