Van Helsing

starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale

review by Stephen Notley

I actually had a good time at Van Helsing. Expecting nothing after mostly hating the Mummy movies by the same guy Stephen Sommers I found myself grinning at the goofiness of the opening scene, the angry villagers, the Frankenstein's lab, the Monster, the Dracula, the big burning windmill. And then the second scene, introducing Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing in battle with a character from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is pretty dumb but has a lot of vervy swinging around on cables, a motif I've always liked.

And from there, well, sure, Van Helsing's not much of a character. He doesn't talk much, preferring to express himself by blasting away with his fully automatic crossbowamajig. When he does talk, he kinda sucks, sounding prefunctory and unfunny. He's a "you guy", a main character in a video game, the dude you order around and select wisecracks for and get to control when you shoot monsters.  He has no, how you say, personality.

But lo! he sure do blast away at them monsters, and so does Kate Beckinsale, an asskicker at least as good as Van Helsing. Again, not a character per se and whenever either of them start talking you just wanna hurry up and get to the next bit of the game but she gets some blasty stuff of her own. It's like the levels where you control one character or the other, trading off between them.

Richard Roxburgh is a curious piece of the puzzle, playing the foppish main bad guy Dracula after having played League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's foppish bad guy Moriarty, uniting both these 19th-century-figure-of-horror-and-legend movies in providing some very limp, foppish villainry. I loved him in Moulin Rouge as The Count. he was a great villain there, a weaselly little man with power, but that characterization doesn't exactly work for a guy like Dracula.

But to talk about performances seems like missing the point. Watching Van Helsing is like watching a guy play the Van Helsing game, and it's a pretty okay game, and he's pretty good at it. As a movie, it's got no discernible point or thing to say about life, but if you're looking for a way to burn away two hours of life and get absolutely nothing out of it except a few hours further in the day? Go for it.

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