Reviews: Van Helsing

Silly fun that begs you not to analyze it

This movie is no masterpiece- let me get that out of the way- but it is fun. It has the werewolf, Frankenstein's creature, Dracula and vampires, little gremlin vampires, vampire hunters, and a lot of action. It's cheesy fun in the same way you'd enjoy, say, Godzilla vs. Megalon. You can't analyze this movie and say "that's not how that happens" or "that character isn't supposed to be that way" because it's not that kind of movie (and it fails at logic everywhere). Everything about this movie is mediocre, but fun.

From the beginning, you'll notice that Van Helsing is some sort of Simon Belmont instead of an old, kinda weird scientist guy. That's your first cue to not take this movie seriously. His mission is to defeat unholy monsters and his latest mission involves Dracula. He meets up with Anna Valerious, a princess who only knows how to run headfirst into trouble. Her family's been cursed and the only way to lift the curse is to defeat Dracula, hence Van Helsing's mission. They get into a lot of trouble trying to accomplish this mission.

So, the story is so-so and is just an excuse to get some action hero guy to fight Dracula. It's like someone wanted to make Castlevania The Movie but couldn't get the rights. I feel like Anna was poorly written, too.

The acting isn't great but it gets the job done. Sometimes, it feels like they were just having fun with this. The special effects are kind of terrible for a 2004 movie, although anything practical effects was done well- the CGI is what destroys this movie. The action sequences are great fun even if they are a touch unbelievable.

The soundtrack gets the job done. There isn't anything that blows your mind here but there isn't any inappropriate music or sound effects. It all works and just works.

My favorite thing about this movie are the sets. They're great and really provide the atmosphere it should give. They're great homages to the Hammer and Universal films and Dracula's castle looks so much like the typical Castlevania castle.

I feel like this could have been a fun franchise if the CGI had been done better. Needless to say, I had fun with this movie. I feel that if you can enjoy a Godzilla movie (past the original, which is its own genre), you may be able to appreciate this. You need to sit down, say "This is just a movie", devour a bucket of popcorn and soda.

Probably sounded better on paper…

Van Helsing is one of those films that I really wanted to like. I love campy action movies, especially ones that are interspersed with all of my favorite classic movie monsters. Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed by this film and not even its occasional dosages of Narm Charm could save it.

The audience is treated with the surprise that this is not about the aging scientist and vampire expert we all know and love, courtesy the original Dracula novel. Played by a young, strapping Hugh Jackman, he doesn’t resemble the character in any way. He can’t even qualify as Helsing In Name Only because his first name is not Abraham, but Gabriel for some inexplicable reason. Nevertheless, I was willing to forego Helsing’s characterization because this is, after all, an action film.

One of the major things that really spoiled this movie for me was its portrayal of Dracula. Our first glimpse of him, when he is discussing his nefarious plans with Victor Frankenstein, is accompanied by a barrage of Grade-D ham. It soon becomes increasingly clear that he’s been stripped of his mysterious and dangerous qualities and saddled with goofy, CGI-morphing, axe-craziness. The movie can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be humorous or serious and, apparently, neither can its main antagonist.

The film continued to incite annoyance with its grating side characters, overuse of very mediocre CGI, and Kate Beckinsale’s horrid attempt at… Whatever accent she was trying to speak in. Even ignoring all of the anachronisms and the butchery of many beloved characters (with the exception of Frankenstein’s monster who, despite the frequent unwarranted yelling, just might be the only sympathetic character in this movie), any optimism is staked in the heart by a painfully convoluted plot.

Overall, this movie was a nightmare for this troper. Its stabs at humor are appalling while honest moments are laced with Narm. Furthermore, it began to drag on tortuously for me. Even the final battle was boring and uninspired. If you’re looking for something carefree, full of Fan Service and passable attempts at badassery, then you might want to give this one a try. But if you are, like this troper, a notorious horror purist, it’s probably best if you forget Van Helsing even exists.