Director Stephen Sommers is the man who revived the "Mummy" from a dusty corpse to a romping good flick. He followed up his first success with the questionably zany, but still decent Mummy Returns. It's no wonder then that Sommers has fallen into a very common trap. He used an old (but successful) pattern for a new venture and its just unfortunate that the actors, script and story line are not suitable for the extreme ends of camp humour, outrageously pure evil and dashing superior specimens of manly men. While no one denies that Hugh Jackman is manly, his personal stature and scripted character lend themselves more to the subtle, deadly-serious anti-hero. Kate Beckinsale is just too amazingly beautiful to be laughed at, even when incredibly stupid things come out of her mouth and her character's fiery spirits drives her to insane actions. David Wenham is perhaps the best cast character out of the three, playing the fool/jester in his role of sidekick/friar/inventor. There are some moments where he provides the perfect amount of naïve comic relief to this dark and dangerous picture.
The movie is set in 19th Century London, Rome, Paris and Transylvania (the majority of the action happens in this gloomy surreal location). This is a world threatened by eternal evil, a force that launches repeat attacks on humanity as a whole. The world's only protection lies in the hands of Van Helsing, a man hated and feared for his brutal destruction of evil. Misunderstood by everyone (even himself-Van Helsing lost his memories for some reason not quite explained) this one man crusader for good is sent out to destroy Count Dracula (Richard Roxburg) once and for all. Through Sommers' creativity this movie also ends up including The Wolfman and Frankenstein's Monster (Shule Hensley). This dangerous mission involves Van Helsing with Anna Valerious (Beckinsale), as it is her families eternal quest to destroy Dracula or lose all chance to enter the gates of Heaven. Needless to say, the plot becomes very thick and twisted so that coincidences rule this movie's universe. Roxburg is delightful to watch, he merges devious cunning with general insanity but even this becomes uncomfortably laughable at times. There is potential in this movie: its pace alone is like a runaway horse dragging some poor soul to hell with thrilling momentum but the suspension of disbelief is disrupted so often by pure silliness. The plot capers where it should writhe with suspense and anguish-this is after all a dark piece of horror.
I'm not going to belabor the strange proportions of impossible physical stunts or cheap throwaway laughs. There are good points to this film and if you're willing to let yourself dissolve into Sommers' imagination I'm sure this is a wonderful wild ride of Buccaneer adventure. Not quite as intelligent as other fantasy epics out there but certainly fun to watch. Bottom line is to imagine an amusement ride: high velocity, intense impact and overwhelming soundtrack broken up by moments of crazed cheesy humour-this is the Van Helsing movie experience.
Special DVD Features:
-Explore Dracula's castle – I enjoyed this 360 (degree) unique self guided tour of the grungy castle. There are special features here that were unavailable to viewers until now.
-You Are In The Movie!- Another unique addition to the "features" section and worthwhile checking out.
-Outtakes – Includes the usual assortment of scratched scenes.
-Bringing The Monsters To Life – From conception to completion of Van Helsing's character.
– The Legend Of Van Helsing – Watch the evolution of Van Helsing through the ages of film history.
-Commentaries – The commentaries are presented by director Sommers, producer Ducsay and three of the principle actors, watch this segment to find out who the actors are ( I don't want to give away too much here).
-The Van Helsing Xbox Game – I can not comment on this part of the extra features since I do not own an X-box, so check it out for yourself. I believe part of the actual game is included here.