Van Helsing should be studied as a prime example of the deficiencies and flaws of Hollywood. At a running time of a full two hours it starts with an angry mob and a huge stone windmill being burned to the ground in the first five minutes or so. From there it never bothers trying to get better, it just gets louder. And louder. And louder still.
Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a dashing super-hero type dedicated to removing the Earth of all the fabled monsters and creatures of myth and popular modern fiction. In an early scene Van Helsing disposes of Dr Jeckyl’s alter-ego Mr Hyde (Robbie Coltrane…’s voice – the visual is entirely a CG creation) and then reports back to his Vatican funded, Bond style headquarters (replete with Carl (David Wenham) the whimpering, toady Q weapons ‘n’ gadgets man) for his next orders.
Of course being a potential franchise they wouldn’t take the lazy way out and start off with the Big Daddy of all monsters would they. O wait they totally would, and Van Helsing and Carl head off to Transylvania to duke it out with Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who has put the local village under siege and seems to have taken a special interest in Anna (Kate Beckinsale), the last of her bloodline and owner of the hardest working corset in Eastern Europe.
With Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale the film has two of the most beautiful people in the world – with equally to die for hair – and also two of the most unengaging, uncharismatic leads in Hollywood. Seriously name a movie either has done which made something other than your zipper stand up and take notice.
Richard Roxburgh’s Dracula fares no better, with a *pun clumsily intended* altogether bloodless performance as the fanged fiend who starts and ends his every scene with long boring and meaningless monologues. Count Dracula is supposed to be sexy, dangerous and simultaneously loathsome and compelling, this Drac is the guy that will bore you to death at the party and then call you the next day to rehash his monotonous ramblings again.
Alas despite the presence of the most famed and revered anti-hero from folklore, his nubile brides and numerous other beasties and creatures, the worst monsters in Van Helsing are the ones in charge of the CGI and the guy responsible for the so called ‘jokes’ in the script – namely almost every line the toadyish and annoying Carl utters.
With the two lifeless cut outs for leads, the special effects from hell and a Frankenstein’s monster of a script – meaning the best bits are all taken from the corpses of many other better films – Van Helsing sounds like it should be a monster film to end all monster films. But that’s where the skills, thrills and kills end, all the genuine hair raising material occurs offscreen, with the film the dullest and laziest of mainstream products imaginable.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. There’s a reason there was no Van Helsing 2… lucky Jackman and Beckinsale have other equally crappy franchises to keep them both busy.