May 09, 2004

Van Helsing

Van Helsing is good -- if you take it for what it is. It is a special effects feast, but so much so that the film is basically a cartoon. In this Age of CGI any kind of fantasy film is a cartoon.

Stephen Sommers takes Bram Stoker's Dracula and pulls it down to a level just above Scooby-Doo, but so what? The creators devolve the story so much that they bring in all the other freak monsters: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein's Monster, The Werewolf. (According to VH1's Best Week Ever, The Mummy is going to sue...) But Steve brings them in effectively; in his version they each have a key role in Drac's biography. The back story here is decent. The film is action-packed and suspenseful, and held me well through to the end.

We rarely see a film the same weekend as its release, but my wife was in a hurry to go, and I'm glad she talked me into it. I saw all the bad reviews and reported accordingly, but Lucy was undaunted.

I wonder about these chains of bad reviews. Lately I've taken to using Rotten Tomatoes, which is great because you get a composite of reviews from newspapers and websites across the internet. Re Van Helsing, I would like to do a chronological study and discover that some early bad reviews might have started a trend. The film is no masterpiece but I would expect better than the 31% I saw on RT.

Seeing all the other monsters made me wonder why, with all these comic book movies like Spiderman and Road to Perdition, we haven't seen a major remake of Frankenstein, or The Curse of The Werewolf. This movie would seem to have headed those off, but maybe it's just test marketing.

Van Helsing is good, not great, but a nice bit of escapism for a Sunday afternoon.

Posted by Wayne at May 9, 2004 04:02 PM

It's hard to hate Stephen Sommers, that overgrown kid playing with his digital toys. But one wonders how long he can keep doing basically the same movie over and over until people get sick of them? (Answer: A LONG time.)

DEEP RISING got really boring quickly. THE MUMMY was great fun. THE MUMMY RETURNS was too hollow, too repetitive to be much fun. VAN HELSING? Expect not to be surprised. It'll make a lot of money. I understand the need for escapism in these times.

Just one thing: Digital special effects are not exiciting anymore. The fact that they can effortlessly create images without moving physical objects... somehow that affects my ability to get involved. Or things look too smooth, too flawless for belief to be suspended.

Computer graphics should be reserved for subtle effects (such as lighting and minor adjustments). When the movie consists MOSTLY of computer-generated images, such as VAN HELSING, then I just won't bother. Have fun, kids.

Posted by: A.R. Yngve at May 9, 2004 05:09 PM

I don't mind being a kid once in a while, it helps me guard against pretention. I wouldn't see Finding Nemo, but a hybrid cartoon like this is alright. There is at least a real woman there to lust after.

Posted by: Wayne at May 10, 2004 12:55 AM

After seeing all the rotten reviews on this film, I'm encouraged by your review. I like a little mindless escapism once in awhile too. I recently saw "Hellboy" with my godchild and really enjoyed it. And I'm not one who enjoys very many of these comic book movies. But maybe I'll see Van Helsing just for the fun of it (at matinee prices and skipping the refreshment stand).

Also, I'm just curious why you consider "Road to Perdition" a comic book movie?

Posted by: Ken at May 11, 2004 03:58 AM

Ah, Road to Perdition was done from a graphical novel. I saw a special on A&E about it, which I would expect to find on a DVD. Check it out.

Comic book movies are natural because they come with a built-in storyboard. Not doing the boards skips a big, possibly time-consuming step in the process.

I hope you read my bit about Hellboy. I liked that a lot.

How exciting. I now have three returning commenters. Thanks for participating gentlemen.

Posted by: Wayne at May 11, 2004 09:58 AM

Van Helsing was an amazing movie in my opinion. If you really watch it carefully and look past some of the more poor acting, it is really facinating. Look at what the producer has done with the legends of vampires. He's turned the old myth over making the immortal creatures into banshees more or less. It is a great twist to that type of character. And as for the transformation of the werewolves, I've always wondered how that happened and in the movie it is explained quite clearly when Valkan is converted. I think that the critics just aren't looking at the movie for what it truly is. Not to mention the special affects were awesome, you're right, but I'm talking about the creativity involved in taking a 300 year old myth and turning it into something new and fresh.

Just my opinion of course.

Posted by: Cherri at January 8, 2005 01:51 AM
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