Friday night, I went with some friends to the very acceptable Van Helsing. My movie-going companions seemed to think it was repetitive and dragged on, and it sort of did, but I think it told a good story. I call it “very acceptable”, not excellent or spectacular, again, it told a good story.
We start with a solid openeing: the villagers with torches coming for Dr. Frankenstein and his monster (who comes to be known simply as Frankenstein, which drives me nuts, I’ll get to that). Then we move onto Van Helsing battling Mr. Edward Hyde, of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fame. The movie is littered with direct references and minor allusions to classic literature, which are always fun when you recognize them.
The main character is Gabriel Van Helsing, not Dr. Abraham Van Helsing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so I’m a little confused as to where this monster-fighting character comes from. We are told that he is very old, mentioning remembrances from 73 BCE (actually, he mentions 73 BC, but I prefer the areligious connotation of BCE), which jives, to a certain extent, with what we know of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing. But Dr. Van Helsing was definitely not some pseudo-soldier working for some secret branch of the Vatican. That whole story line alludes to James Bond, with the assistant, Karl, as Q, and is mostly unconvincing.
Anyway, Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale put in solid performances as Gabriel Van Helsing and Anna Valerious, respectively. They portray vampire/monster-hunters each with a personal vendetta of some kind, and this leads to a reasonably believable romance.
The movie moves along fairly quickly, which I loved. Only for a few minutes does the action and story settle down, while the group travels to Budapest. But the story becomes somewhat formulaic, the heroes beat one obstacle only to find another bigger one; one character seemingly dies only to turn out to have survived and become an important figure; items whose function is mostly unknown become vital and timely. I think it’s just an overuse of foreshadowing, and it took away from the overall success of the story, but I found myself waiting to see how it would play out.
Overall, I thought Van Helsing was a good movie, and I would recommend it. The action was exciting and, again, the movie didn’t really slow down at all. Maybe just try to get to a matinée to avoid the outrageous cinema prices.