Published May 01, 2004It is the 1800s and a heroic Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) secretly fights against the forces of evil. With the assistance of Transylvanian freedom fighter Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) and sidekick Carl (David Wenham), Van Helsing attempts to hunt down the illusive Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Facing a medley of classic horror villains along the way, it's up to Van Helsing to beat the bad guys, get the girl and make time to explore his own sorted past.
Although dripping with the essence of a comic book, this film actually works as an original effort. Mixing concepts from various novels (Dracula and Frankenstein being most prominent) and the early Universal Studios monster movies, writer/director Stephen Sommers breathes new life into old characters. While Jackman's performance is decent, what truly makes the film work is the supporting cast. Roxburgh is quite effective at being both a self-deprecating and guileless Dracula. Shuler Hensley's portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein's monster is also significant, adding a grey area to Van Helsing's obvious black and white morality.
The most noteworthy aspects of the film lie in the special effects. What could have easily turned into a shoddy CGI crap-fest achieves groundbreaking realism instead. The creatures are believable and the backdrop captures the darkness of traditional gothic settings. Unfortunately, weak story lines take away from the finished product. Van Helsing and Anna's love story is especially juvenile, with courtly love replacing any true emotional bond. Nevertheless, the film has a fast pace that is exciting rather than insulting. Bottom line: Van Helsing is a fun movie with fantastic special effects and great characters. It's fluff, but it's respectable fluff, and fans of both action and horror can find something enjoyable here. (Universal)