Someday the mountain might get ’em, but the law never will
Van Helsing (2004): 7 out of 10: The titular Van Helsing finds himself sent on a mission to Transylvania to hunt Dracula and prevent a family of Gypsies from being trapped in P
Van Helsing is a huge film that is at times overstuffed with action, cliffhangers, and cameos. It has Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, Dracula’s brides, Dracula’s babies, Dracula’s Oompa Loompas, other vampires, other werewolves, gypsies with torches, Victor Frankenstein, Dr.
Van Helsing is overall a fun time that is appropriate monster mayhem for the whole family. The film suffers from some teensy tiny flaws that take it down a notch from writer/director Stephen Sommers previous Mummy films. But like that very thin mint fed to Mr. Creosote in the Meaning of Life any one of these could cause the entire experience to explode. What follows is a non-comprehensive list of teeny tiny Van Helsing issues.
A: Dracula is kind of well, lame. Richard Roxburgh’s take on the count does eventually grow on one with his tongue firmly planted in cheek. After all, this is as much his movie as it is Van Helsing’s. One wonders what the film could have done with Gary Oldman or even Tom Cruise in the role. Roxburgh doesn’t have enough menace, and he seems more of a put-upon husband with three wives than an actual bad guy.
B: There is a special effects failure from which the movie has trouble recovering. About two-thirds of the way through the movie Van Helsing jumps a chasm with a carriage pulled by four horses. A vast chasm. You know the bridge is out kind of thing. The type of chasm that the General Lee would balk at jumping. It is ridiculous on paper and looks even worse on screen.
C: In fact, the whole movie seems to have a problem with physics. No one seems to have mass and even to allow that Van Helsing, Dracula, and the werewolves are indestructible it doesn’t explain why Kate Beckinsale isn’t dead like thirty times from falls alone.
D: The movie also has a problem keeping itself grounded. Transylvania seems to have nothing but sheer cliffs, and the moon is full every three days. Everything is a cliffhanger, and the film never takes a moment to breathe in its over two hours running time lest it not be able to fit in one more set piece, cliffhanger, or character reveal.
There is more good than bad overall, however. With various characterizations such as Dracula’s brides and Frankenstein being particular standouts. And while one can nitpick for days (Why exactly does Dracula even want children?) a fun time is in store from a live-action cartoon point of view.
And now for something completely different since this is an overstuffed movie why not an overstuffed review.
First of all, I know that Video Game adaptations were box office poison in 2004 (and not much better now), but yes, the makers of Van Helsing had to realize at some point they were making an almost perfect Castlevania movie. Change Kate Beckinsale’s last name from Valerious to Belmont and change nothing else and one does have a scene for scene recreation of Castlevania.
The good folks in charge of the Universal Monsters didn’t look at the response to this movie before starting their Dark Universe. I mean at least this one had a successful Mummy movie proceeding it… Cough Cough…
Too much FX, not enough characterization, and it never takes a breath. A fun, if exhausting, ride Van Helsing holds its own overall.