Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Summer Movie Season Has Officially Begun:

VAN HELSING - I didn't really know what to think going into this film. A couple of months ago test screening reviews started popping up on the internet calling it everything from a "heaping pile of dog shit" to my personal favorite, "A $200 Million Dollar Troma Film." Then a few weeks ago, people were saying it wasn't great but a lot of fun. I sat down last night with my large cherry coke and my love of the old Universal monster movies intact, and then the movie started. 2 hours and 20 minutes later I decided I fell somewhere in between these earlier opinions.
After seeing the preview a few dozen times, I thought this might be fun, but the one thing that always made me laugh was the part toward the end where you would hear those beautiful words of encourgament, "A Stephen Sommers Film." And it truly is a Stephen Sommers film; he wrote, directed, and co-produced the thing. He's got the love of film that Tarantino possesses and unfortunately not even a millioneth of the talent. Sommers loved making this movie, I have no doubt, but why didn't he let someone else write the damn thing. Sommers, in 1997, after making a couple of family films (Huckleberry Finn, and The Jungle Book), he made a small horror film called "Deep Rising." In this film, Treat Williams and Famke Jannsen fight sea creatures aboard an ocean liner and get involved with some jewel thieves. While not a good movie, it was tight and action packed with a story that actually had a flow to it. Apparently this movie made enough of an impact to give Sommers the key to Universal's monster movie revivals. 1999 and 2001 brought us "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns," two movies that are big in scope and as far as the storylines go, all over the damn place. "Van Helsing" is no different.
After a fairly entertaining prolouge, which basically copies the ending of the original "Frankenstein," with Dracula added in for good effect, the movie delves into another two hours of climax, after climax, after climax. This movie could have been titled "The Climaxes of Van Helsing," a great alternate porn title as well. First off, the fan boy in Sommers couldn't resist putting a lot of monsters in here; The Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein's monster. Not to mention, Igore, hot Vamp chicks, a couple more werewolves, Dracula's minions, Dracula's children, Mr. Hyde, etc. It's like a Monster All-Star game. Wolfie, Drac, and Frank are actually all tied in together in a fairly interesting way, but none of these versions of the characters are very interesting. The other parts of the story are as I said all over the place. Throughout this entire film, Sommers writes himself into all of these corners and doesn't come up with very interesting ways to get himself out of them. Take for instance, if you see this, the carriage chase. You have to ask yourself these questions; How did the other carriage make it over the gorge? Why didn't the Vamp chicks see it as well? Why does the top of the carriage catch on fire when the Wolfman jumps on it? In an entertaining summer film, you might not be asking these questions, but with a more seasoned writer you probably wouldn't have to. It's as if a lot of these scenes were thrown in because they seemed like cool ideas, whether or not they served the story any purpose.
As for the acting. Hugh Jackman is the perfect choice to give Van Helsing a younger man's image, and an almost Batman, er shall I say Wolverine, style of adventurer's legs. But his character is never really developed. We hear about all of his pain and suffering and never see any of it in his actions. Kate Beckinsale is extremely hot, and given a throwaway chick role that are a staple of Sommers' films; aka the sexy as hell Famke Janssen (Deep Rising) and Rachel Weiss (Mummy, Mummy Returns). As for the Count himself; I have seen a lot of Dracula performances, and all I will say is there have been good ones, bad ones, and then there is Richard Roxborgh. My favorite part is when he screams for no apparent reason, and he always loses his accent in these parts.
I'm sorry if I've gone on too long with this review, but what a lackluster film that had so much potential. This never would have been an amazing film, but it sure as hell could have been a fun one. And in the end, it's just a dud, plain and simple. Easily forgettable.

I also saw a lot of summer movie previews before this film. And I have to say the most entertaing preview to what I'm sure will be a terrible film was the "Shemar and Kapur Go to White Castle," or whatever there names are. Have you guys seen this trailer, some funny stuff. "Did Neal Patrick Harris just still my car?"


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