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 never 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 family’s 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.
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.
- Feature Commentary with Director Stephen Sommers and Editor/Producer Bob Ducsay
- Feature Commentary with Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Henley and Will Kemp
- Van Helsing: The Story, The Life, The Legend
- Track the Adventure
- Bringing the Monsters to Life
- You Are in the Movie!
- The Music of Van Helsing
- Dracula’s Lair is Transformed
- The Masquerade Ball Scene “Unmasked”
- The Art of Van Helsing
- Monster Eggs