So I saw Van Helsing last night, Stephen Sommers’ new monster flick; a veritable beast-fest, in which an amnesiac monster hunter, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is deployed by a special order of the Catholic Church to find and destroy Dracula, in Transylvania, and rescue the beautiful Anna Valerius’ (Kate Beckinsale) family from literal damnation. So far, one might think, so good. Or not.
In Transylvania, he fights a werewolf, rescues Frankenstein’s monster, punches Vampiric Oompa-Loompas in the face and comes toe-to-toe with Dracula and his three ‘brides’, as well as a near-infinite number of highly explosive vampire-babies. All accompanied by his very own version of Sancho Panza, the comical Carl, played by David Wenham (last seen being ever-so-slightly more manly as Farramir in the Lord of the Rings movies).
The film is hysterical. It can’t be judged by any objective aesthetic criteria; as a movie it is flawed; the plot is slightly convoluted, it has deus ex machina written all over it, characterisation is shallow and the resolution couldn’t be more cheesey if it was an excessively ripe gorgonzola with a best before date sometime in the last century. The one-liners are terrible (and therefore excellent).
As a pastiche, though, its brilliant. Reviews have slated it for demeaning the monster flick oeuvre (please!), and for its poor characterisation. But if you go in expecting silly, full-on entertaining hero-slaying-monster type action, and don’t suffer from any kind of cinematic lactose intolerance, you will be entertained.
Warning, though: if you are serious about your monster movies, don’t go. You’ll be upset at apparent flaws in logic, the comic lovability of Frankenstein’s monster, the cute yet explosive creatures, the terrible, but wonderful dialogue, and the Valerius family in the sky. Still, I had fun, and wanted to write something in defense of the film when everyone I went to see the film with came out saying it was “terrible, but I enjoyed it.” I think its more than just comically entertaining; I think they went for exactly what they got; a B-movie for the 21st Century, and a damn sight more entertaining than Mars Attacks (admittedly made in the 90s).
Oh – it has a soundtrack by the awesome Alan Silvestri (of minor fame from the Back to the Future soundtrack), which I also liked. And there was another deeply weird trailer – Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Angelina Jolie in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a 1940s SciFi flick (oh yes). Can’t wait, now.