Thursday, May 13, 2004

.:A Primer:.

Grace and I managed to catch Van Helsing a couple of days ago, although she was initially frightened when we walked into the theater because it was the scene where the baby vampires were attacking the townsfolk...

Anyways, I have a review right here.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!!!

.:Movie Review: Van Helsing:.

Van Helsing
What? No adamantium?

Hugh Jackman stars in this uber high budget film based on a hit anime series. He plays Gabriel Van Helsing, a member of the Holy Order of the Vatican, hellbent on vanquishing evil. His latest assignment this time takes him to Transylvania, where he must encounter the immortal count Dracula. He meets up with Kate Beckinsale's character, the last of two living members of her clan who has sworn to destroy Dracula.

Van Helsing is regarded as a murderer by the general public, but is regarded as a Holy man within the Vatican. He uses very innovative means to take down his opponents, from spinning blade discs to repeating crossbows. Unlike the old professor Van Helsing in the novel, this is a swashbuckling hero who has lost all memory of his past. Little does he know that his past is the key to Dracula's very existence, as he was the one who has murdered Dracula and unleashed the vampire upon the world.

Dracula's plan was simple yet elegant: he needed to bring his children to "life", and the one way he can do it is by replicating Dr. Frankenstein's project, which he secretly funded. Unfortunately, his haste and rashness led to Dr. Frankenstein's death, and Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant, was unable to fully duplicate the process, unless they manage to get Frankenstein's Monster, who is the only key to providing enough power to bring the dead to a state of undead. Experimentations with Kate Beckinsale's brother in the film, who turned into a werewolf because of a werewolf bite, proved futile, and only led to a momentary glimpse of hope for Dracula's offspring.

Van Helsing himself ends up being bitten by the werewolf in his attempt to rescue the Frankenstein monster, as he was clearly not evil, but merely misunderstood. This meant that he would turn into a werewolf by the stroke of midnight at the first full moon. Unfortunately, his being a werewolf was the only means by which he could kill Dracula. In this story, Dracula can be killed only by a werewolf (Think "Underworld". Gee, whiz. Kate Beckinsale was a vampire there.), which explains why he possesses a cure. In destroying Dracula in their final encounter, Van Helsing inadvertently kills Beckinsale as well. More or less, that's the story in a nutshell.

So what was good about this film? For one, the special effects were spectacular, given a sort of medieval to Victorian era setting. The $200 M sure was put to good use as far as the SFX goes, and I especially liked the eerie effect of having Dracula walk all over the place throughout some scenes. One moment he paces around the floor, the next, he's walking around the ceiling, and so forth. The action was nice and engaging, and the pacing was decent enough, although loosely tied together, since I was hoping to see more of the Frankenstein monster than just what I got. This was a great testament to technical filmmaking, as they really had a lot of good elements in there, and the effects were smooth. The werewolf transformation and reversion are amazing sights to behold.

What the film had in visual power, however, it lacked in story development. There was little development in the characters, as Van Helsing was Van Helsing, and Dracula was Dracula. They were almost one-dimensional, barring the extremely predictable romance angle with Kate Beckinsale, which was sappy at best. While I would forgive some deviances from common lore about vampires as I am inclined to assume that the anime featured these rules in the first place, I cannot understand why Dracula cannot form an undead army through his victims. It was mentioned somewhere in the film that those whom they kill become one of them. So why the need for their offspring if this be the case?

Worse, the actor portraying Dracula was soooo inoffensive. There is no element of terror to him, as he just couldn't do justice to the role of Dracula. I of course compare him to the great Gary Oldman's portrayal, and his performance looks just a tad more intimidating than the vampire grandfather in the Munsters. If your main villain is nowhere near intimidating (Barring his transformation, of course.), then how can the audience want to rally behind Van Helsing to vanquish a benign threat? That, plus the fact that his acting, along with that of the female vampires, was simply... over the top, bordering on campy. It was so out of place because this campiness worked in the fifties Welcome to 2004, Van Helsing.

Bottomline: the action pleased me, but the lulls in between just made me wish I were watching "I Will Survive" instead. I guess if you can forgive the plot holes they have about vampire lore that they themselves created, you could enjoy this movie a bit more...

Marcelle's "Fun" Evaluation: B/B+
Marcelle's "Critical" Evaluation: C-/C

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