Van Helsing (Widescreen Edition)
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Legendary monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is summoned to mysterious Transylvania on a mission that will thrust him into a sweeping battle against the forces of darkness! With non-stop action and electrifying special effects, Van Helsing is an adrenaline-powered motion picture event Roger Ebert calls "Spectacular!"
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Jackman gives a great performance as Van Helsing. Richard Roxburgh plays Count Dracula with a refreshing and great interpretation of that character, while I didn't even recognize Kate Beckinsale at first due to her costume and "Transylvanian accent". Kate is so hot she could make anything look sexy, even a potato sack! In this action film, Beckinsale plays a great heroine and it really showcases her acting skills.
Overall, a great action movie and tribute to all the original actors and actresses in the Universal Monster series of years gone by!
The interlude scene with Mr. Hyde was interesting. Comparing the fight scenes with the CGI used for the Hulk and Jabba the Hut in Star Wars shows just how far the technology and acting has come in the past twenty years.
Creature design for the Frankenstein Monster was well thought out, with just enough of a nod to Karloff's body dynamics and voice as the Frankenstein monster to keep it recognizable. The CGI and makeup for Adam (The monster) has clear descent from Jack Pierce's design, (which was based on early 20th century anatomy), was enhanced nicely by the four section glowing, crackling skull and lightning effects, which were also present in the monster's heart.
When asked what he wanted the simple response- "To Exist!" was brilliant! No need for anything else.
Wisely, the studio didn't try to imitate Lugosi's Dracula. The visual transformations were beautiful, though I didn't find this Dracula as creepy as the Lugosi portrayal. This Dracula is certainly as evil as any other on screen, but he is a complex being, driven but lacking in some basic human emotions-providing a nice development that I hope Universal will pick up on in another movie down the line.
The brides of Dracula were well-designed, the actresses beautiful, and were believable as the undead brides who are immortal, bereft of higher reasoning faculties, cruel, devoted and more than a little terrified of their master.
Lon Chaney Sr., the first choice to play Dracula in the 1930's for Universal, had an on-screen homage in the makeup and visage of the village Undertaker. This character and his clothing is clearly based on Chaney's makeup in "London After Midnight", an unfortunately lost silent movie.
Van Helsing's side kick provided just the right amount of humor to break up some of the scenes.
Hugh Jackman does a good if not outstanding job as a driven monster hunter unaware of most of his past. One can only wonder what sort of sins warranted a memory wipe as part of his penance. How did he come to be taken in by this Brotherhood of Monster Hunters?
The werewolves were different from those in other Universal Pictures, "The Howling" series or "Underworld". Each new generation of CGI and makeup provides us with fuzzier- and much bigger-werewolves. Designers might consider dropping the dog as a template for this creature and use an extinct bear-dog or similar canid that was bigger and scarier than a wolf.The werewolves simply did not move in a believable manner.
The scene of death by artificial sunlight in Dracula's Palace was interesting, if lifted from a Quentin Tarantino movie some years back, where the vampires were killed by sunlight reflecting off of a disco ball.
Kate Beckinsdale was stunning as an acrobatic gypsy trying to save generations of her family from their badly conceived (in my opinion) bargain with the Church. It was never clear what her plan was for killing Dracula, as she knew that everything in her arsenal was ineffectual.
In all, a good movie. Not a spectacular box office success, but I do hope in a few years for a sequel or prequel built around Gabriel.
The plot is revealed summarily as this: Van Helsing must go to Transylvania and destroy Dracula, at the instigation of the Vatican in Rome. By doing so, he will aid the family of the Valerious in their entrance to Heaven. Dracula was not destroyed by any of the Valerious, so generations of them are apparently all waiting together at the Gate of St Peter. They currently are stuck there in limbo until Dracula is destroyed and the curse is lifted. There are only two of the Valerious left, so time and aggression are paramount to the mission. Van Helsing arrives to find that his work will not be so simple, as the people there have found that traditional techniques of destroying vampires does not work on the famed Dracula who, once again, is the main target. Only by a secret method, never before known and discovered by the Latin-fluent Friar Carl, will work to eliminate Dracula.
Many classic creatures of legend occupy the screen throughout the film. Frankenstein, Igor, Dracula, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, werewolves, vampires, and a host of wonderful medieval-like characters provide a wonderful array of interesting and thoughtful figures and personalities which many will like. The main part of the film is set in Transylvania, at the turn of the 19th century. The mise-en-scene of the film is simply fantastic, given the central subject of monster-hunting in Europe during the late Enlightenment Period. The sense of foreboding and darkness throughout the entire film is never absent. (Think of Tim Burton's 1989 "Batman" film or his 1999 "Sleepy Hollow" interpretation. It is quite the same in this film, although this work was directed by Stephen Sommers of "The Mummy" fame.) It seems that there is always danger lurking around every corner for Van Helsing and his friends. And if not at risk of being murdered by the local peasantry, then the danger comes at the expense of the fierce monsters whom he is hunting. I also loved the way that humor was mixed in with the theme of adventure, action, and monster-hunting. Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing) and David Wenham (Friar Carl; Mr Wenham was also Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings" 2 and 3) are a wonderfully entertaining and comical duo, and are well-remembered long after the film. Add in the colorful and unique Kate Beckinsale, and the duo becomes an even more fun and interesting trio. The main villain of Dracula, played by Richard Boxburgh, is absolutely cool. His performance was downright awesome and memorable. He had a fun mix of anger, ambition, humor, and class. Indeed, he is quite the conflicted monster!
Van Helsing and his friends go on monster hunts and adventures, fighting with state-of-the-art weaponry and inventive techniques for ridding the world of monsters. And the CGI is stunning and amazing, and in and of itself could make for an interesting watch. Everything about this film is excellent.
Watch "Van Helsing" for a great time, especially around the Halloween season. Get your friends together, and hold on for a great and fun adventure!
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