This is cut ‘n’ paste from FU, so apologies if you’ve already read it.
Van Helsing. Spoilers follow.
This could’ve been really, really bad. Supernaturally poor. Happily, it isn’t.
I was pretty certain I was going to love it from the moment the Universal globe went black and white and a mob of scythe-n-torch wielding villagers stormed up to a castle. Then when the castle’s occupants turned out to be Dr Frankenstein, his Monster, Igor and Dracula… how could you not love it? “Look, he’s heading for the windmill!” – well, where else do monsters in peril go?
This bravura homage to Universal movies past is immediately followed with a more straightforward “Hugh fights a big CGI monster” heroic establishing scene. Though the monster is a cocky, incomprehensibly Glaswegian Mr Hyde and it takes place atop Notre Dame, it’s not really the funnest thing ever. And this sets the tone. Van Helsing is best described as patchy. You’re unlikely to be bored (except perhaps during the execerable scene between Dracula and his Brides, which consists of nothing but shouting and screaming in Comedy Accents), but there are few genuinely thrilling moments, Sommers instead going for “solidly entertaining”.
Plot-wise, it’s actually pretty damn tight. Each element has clearly been thought out well, everybody has their purpose and some strands are carried through with a courage not usually found in yer average summer blockbuster HUGE SPOILERS FROM NOW, FOR GOD’S SAKE, LOOK AWAY UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM, THEN COME ARGUE WITH ME ABOUT THEM For example, it was an interesting twist to have Van Helsing bitten by the werewolf. It genuinely imperilled the hero, and was disappointing when the “cure” was revealed. Should it go to a franchise, how interesting would it be if Van Helsing was a werewolf? Oh, well. At least they had the balls to whack Kate – something I honestly didn’t see coming. HUGE SPOILERS END
Performances were variable. Support was fun, from Shuler Hensley’s great turn as the Monster (sympathetic, arrogant, angry – what more you you want from the Monster?) and Kevin J O’Connor’s sadistic Igor to the hysterical (not in the funny sense) Brides of Dracula. I was disappointed that the brunette wasn’t offed earlier, though, as she really got on my nerves. The leads were, well, leads in a blockbuster. Hugh is always watchable, Kate is all Comedy Accent and corset and Richard Roxburgh varies wildly between ridiculous and slightly less ridiculous. His “standing on walls/ceilings/whatever” schtick is great, though. David Wenham’s Q-ish monk is by turns excruciating and a joy – I think you need to get used to him, really.
Um. So, yeah. It’s not going to rock your world, but you’re also not going to feel cheated out of a ticket. A success, I’d say. And not a flop. So ha.