Van Helsing Review

by Susan Granger (ssg722 AT aol DOT com)
May 7th, 2004

Susan Granger's review of "Van Helsing" (Universal Pictures)
    Being an avid Hugh Jackman fan and devotee of Dracula legend, I was so looking forward to this supernatural saga of the fables 19th-century vampire hunter. But it's a disappointment.
    Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a man-on-a-mission, determined to rid the world of its most evil, nightmarish creatures. Working through a clandestine Catholic connection, he's off to slay Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), along with Dracula's jealous, bloodthirsty brides. But in Transylvania, he's not the only vampire hunter. There's intrepid, corset-clad Anna Valerious (sexy Kate Beckinsale), plus Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, even Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.
    Best known for his "Mummy" films, writer/director Stephen Sommers primarily concentrates on the stylishly visual action sequences and - to his credit - the photography, atmospheric Prague locales and stunts (primarily wire-work) are eye-candy, particularly when Dracula walks up a pillar and across the ceiling, while his brides are hanging upside down. For comic relief, there's Friar Carl (David Wenman), Igor (Kevin J. O'Connor) and Dracula's tiny CGI gremlins. But the characters and cliché Gothic creatures, culled from Universal Studios' archives, lack substance, complexity, even originality, although, eventually, one discovers that enigmatic Van Helsing has something in common with the monsters he's killing, personal issues. Saying more than that would reveal too much. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Van Helsing" is a fast-paced, flashy, fiendish 5. To capitalize on this campy creature-feature, on May 11th, there's a new, animated, half-hour, direct-to-video prequel, "Van Helsing: The London Assignment." But - bottom line - Hugh Jackman deserves better, even if this becomes another franchise.

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