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*** Official VAN HELSING Review Thread


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#1 of 27 OFFLINE   Stevan Lay

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Posted May 06 2004 - 06:52 AM

Just saw Van Helsing and I have two words for the movie: Outrageous and Extreme.

It seems to me that Stephen Sommers is all about action and not much else interests him. Though I must admit that he can direct some good action sequences in the past that can leap out of the screens but even that does not amount to the title of a good action movie. In most instances his action direction is too fast and too furious to make a lasting impact. Take The Mummy Returns for example with the double-decker bus chase scene. With Van Helsing we are given the same treatment in many of its action sequence. For instance, the horse-carriage sequence. While its all fun to watch but if you were to ask me to reference each shot or the finer details of the scene than you'll have little luck. Now, if you were to ask me about some of the great action sequence from Indiana Jones, Speed, Die Hard, etc... than I may be able to help you out on that. Basically, that's the differential.

While they may have spent over $100 million on the movie, the budget invested on the script was less than $1 dollar, IMO. Most of the lines were totally bad, evil even. Van Helsing shoulda done a Van Helsing on the Van Helsing screenplay. For example: "If you want to kill someone, just kill them. Don't just talk about it."

Another distracting aspect of the movie were the phony accents used by the actors (Beckinsale & Roxbergh).

Van Helsing is watchable, but also forgettable.

#2 of 27 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted May 06 2004 - 08:22 AM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Van Helsing". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



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#3 of 27 OFFLINE   Chris

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Posted May 06 2004 - 07:39 PM

About two weeks ago, I was able to sit in on a production review of "Van Helsing".

I felt very "special" sitting in a small, private theater with 12 other people watching what was marketted to be an upcoming blockbuster. I have mentioned elsewhere that I wasn't too enthralled, but now that it's out, I feel like I can go into greater depth as to the problem and actually put up a review.

Van Helsing IS action packed. Tons of stuff happens. It stays busy, busy busy. And the effects rotate between looking very good (vampires changing into things) and looking goofy (some of Helsing's fight scenes seem more likely out of 'Shrek')

The movie started to lose me after the church gives Helsing his big assignment. Upon arrival at the location, he is to save two of the remaining "elders" of the state.. and this is where it got goofy..

I will not get around to direct spoilers, and some of this will be interpretted different, but I challenge anyone to this point: Vampires = Eggs? I mean, maybe I took Dracula's future wrong, but Vampires = Eggs that get 'juiced up' by Frankenstein? This whole thing made no sense. In fact, lots of the subplots were terrible.

The cinematography is great, and the color schemes are fantastic, truly setting the mood. And nothing wrong with the corsets.

But this movie needs some serious work in the "watchability" factor, because as it is, it was so over the top and ridiculous that it lost the "cool" factor and at about 1/2 way through was really tedious. There is a major "gotcha" toward the end regarding Helsing's past, but by then, I didn't really care so much.

This is a film that may do well on the first weekend, but should, if the public has wits, drop like a brick.

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#4 of 27 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted May 06 2004 - 09:49 PM

Posted Image out of four - redeeming feature(s)

There is a hell of a lot of potential in the concepts that are being toyed with here, and the execution of technical levels is outstanding, Allan Davieu's photography particularly (when we're not looking at digital black and white that look good but looks wrong), as well as the effects on everything but Hyde, digital heroine, and screamy faces. The problem lies somewhere fundamental in the approach taken. This film is full of roaringly bad moments, it took about fifteen minutes of dead silence, zero reaction from the crowd before people began chuckling at the awfulness of the film, and by the end we were in full-blown hysterics. This is one of the funniest films of the year, albeit unintentionally. The sad thing is that it could have worked as a comedy were there an ironic tone to the film. I kept thinking, about every thirty seconds, of the potential if they'd Terry Pratchett'd a moment here or there. The film would have been helped immensely; such an approach could make the bad seem good in an intentional way. Instead they chose an overly sincere Flash Gordon aesthetic. It's lamentable really; because the way they are adjusting and toying with the mythologies of these characters is absolutely wonderful, there's incredible potential there.
If there had been a good script to begin with, not the serialized dreck (which makes Lucas seem talented) that was used, things could have been greatly different. But you can't just blame the script, as with League, the problem is in their fundamental approach. The script is as much to blame as the director, stars, and producers for going along with it, for the editors not clipping out some of the more awful lines (and god knows they may have elimated some really horrible stuff). This comes across as a ludicrous fanboy approach, with a bunch of people whose heads and ideas are so scattered they can never come together to focus into something exceptional. And of course there is the 'strong ending' which is so ludicrously out of place in a film this awful. and it's not even a strong ending because they're so clearly using it because they've learned some stereotype that happy ending=bad/sellout, and it results in being extraordinarily manipulative and ridiculous to the audience and the characters.

All around an entertaining, if annoying, experience. Van Helsing is better than League, but so many of the same problems.

If this limps very far past 100 million I will be astounded, Thursday night midnight showings may have been the worst idea possible for a film like this, it's just an extra chance for the bad word of mouth to spread.

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#5 of 27 OFFLINE   Jose Martinez

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Posted May 07 2004 - 10:20 AM

OH COME ON!!!

Didn't you guys think it was cool when Hugh Jackman turned into Wolverine? This movie is a great start for the summer movie season. It was a pure summer action popcorn flick.

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#6 of 27 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted May 07 2004 - 12:05 PM

Can a movie overdose on special effects? After "Van Helsing", the answer is a resounding "YES!" I doubt there's more than 2% of footage that doesn't have any CGI/SPX in the frame. The characterizations are pretty weak, but the movie trudges on, with most of the budget on the screen, but in a very non-compelling fashion. The special effects somewhat fun, but overwhelming after a while. I give it 2 stars or a grade of C (for charitable).
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#7 of 27 OFFLINE   Kristian

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Posted May 07 2004 - 01:21 PM

overkill (n.)
1. Destructive nuclear capacity exceeding the amount needed to destroy an enemy.
2. Excessive killing.
3. An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end: “government overkill in dealing with dissent” (Jesse Unruh).
4. Van Helsing

After a pretty good opening homage to the 1930s Frankenstein, the movie completely falls apart. The excess of action in this movie is truly horrific. By the hundredth time one of Dracula's brides flew across the screen, I felt like I wanted to explode. Even The Mummy Returns comes off looking good compared to this. Posted Image
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#8 of 27 OFFLINE   ScottR

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Posted May 07 2004 - 02:59 PM

I loved it! Felt like a kid again.....nice mixture of Universal and Hammer. Except for the first Dracula, first Wolfman, and first three Frankensteins the Monster Movies have always been silly, but fun. I had a blast. An absolutely beautiful film visually with just enough story without getting too boring. I would have cut about 15-20 minutes from it though. The climax just went on and on and on. Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, et al were great. Can't wait for the dvd!

#9 of 27 OFFLINE   Chris Cheese

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Posted May 07 2004 - 03:19 PM

I loved it too. It's exactly what I wanted it to be - an extremely entertaining popcorn flick. I love the classic monster movies and think this is a wonderful update on them. It's nonstop fun. Ebert's review is absolutely spot on. I don't think it deserves the bad reviews it is getting at all. It's like everybody is going in expecting it to be terrible so they don't enjoy it at all. I went in expecting to be entertained for two hours and it more than lived up to that. Great movie.

#10 of 27 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted May 07 2004 - 04:45 PM

I'm an idiot.

Normally, when someone sees a bad movie, it's traditional for the review to disparage the intelligence of the people who made it, or if the writer is feeling really nasty, the audience. And I suppose I'm doing the latter, because, let's face it, I paid $6.50 to see this movie. I paid it despite knowing the time could be better spent at home, doing some spring cleaning or just watching the ballgame in its entirety. I paid it despite not being terribly impressed with any of the trailers, the recent work of the director and stars, and being completely aware of the utterly poisonous buzz around this movie. Why? Obviously, I'm an idiot.

Of course, I'd made it worse for myself. This is not a good movie to see the night after The General, a 77-year-old action movie that worked with efficiency and wit. The General is a story where everything is in constant motion but also very clear, while Van Helsing is simply chaotic. Or consider that it comes a scant month after Hellboy, another film about monster-hunters, but one which has a certain elegance to it as opposed to feeling crudely welded together as Van Helsing does. In Hellboy, information was parceled out at logical times, as opposed to the awkward exposition dumps that inform the audience of Van Helsing's mythology.

I wonder what's happened to Stephen Sommers. He was never a great filmmaker, but he had a nice run with The Jungle Book, Deep Rising, and The Mummy; those were enjoyable pulp adventure movies which, though lightweight, were professional, with a sense of logic behind them. Van Helsing, like The Mummy Returns before it, seems to be made with imprecise tools. There's several instances of idiotic writing, like when Van Helsing climbs to the top of a tower to try and unchain the monster so he can't power Dracula's machine, despite the phenomenal number of exposed wires just begging to be cut by any of the multiple sharp objects Van Helsing keeps on his person. Sommers doesn't seem to be able to walk the line between homage and camp that he once handled so well. Here, he falls into the trap of too much deliberate anachronism, both in terms of technology and the manner in which characters speak. There's no pride to Richard Roxborough's Dracula, as an example, no sense of him having some wisdom and refinement commesurate with his advanced age. It's one of the least compelling screen versions of the Count ever.

Hugh Jackman manages to escape with most of his dignity intact, but he's about it. Pretty much all the other characters are grotesqueries, with wacky voices and means of behavior. Particularly frustrating is Kate Beckinsale, woefully miscast as Transylvanian monster-hunter Anna Valerious. Her sleek, Audrey Hepburn-esque charm his hidden beneath big hair, a ridiculous costume, and a painful accent. No sparks between her and Jackman. And the action thing just isn't her bag. Stick her in a comedy of manners or a contemporary drama, and she's great, but beating people up just isn't something she can do. She's not outright awful like longtime Sommers mascot Kevin J. O'Connor is as Igor, but that's damning with faint praise. Really, about the only other actor who escapes looking good is Shuler Hensley as Frankenstein's Monster.

And here we get to the frustrating part - the little nuggets of gold hidden among the sea of crap. I loved Sommers' conception of Frankenstein's Monster, from visual to characterization. It's perfect in almost every way. The black-and-white opening prologue is also just a gas, and Alan Silvestri's score is a lot of fun. Not close to subtle, but bombastic in a good way. The image of werewolves shedding their human skin is also a great one. It's stuff like that which keeps me from dismissing Sommers as a hack who got lucky, but also makes the rest of the movie such a disappointment.

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#11 of 27 OFFLINE   TheBat

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Posted May 07 2004 - 04:47 PM

it was a peice of **** and that is what someone yelled out when the movie was over.. pretty much sums of my thoughts on the movie.. makes B&R, the league, pearl harbor, episode 2 an oscar winner in comparsion. only saving grace was the actor from lotr. JACOB

#12 of 27 OFFLINE   Sebastien S

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Posted May 07 2004 - 10:07 PM

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I loved it!

I think this really depends on what people are expecting when they go in to see this... It's not "War & Peace" here, come on guys...

It's a monster movie! About classic monsters/icon figures that were never really meant to be mixed in the same movie! Under the circumstances, I think it held up rather well!

This movie lasts 2hrs and 25 min. and their was not one moment where I was bored. Granted it's not "Braveheart" script wise but that's the thing, this is a no brainer "just have fun watching" movie. If you know that ahead of time and take it for what it is, you'll enjoy yourself... If your expecting some great epic that will change your life, then this isn't the movie for you. Go see "Troy" or something else.

I went in expecting a fun action movie with good actors and cool special effects and that is exactly what I got. No regrets here... Looking forward to the DVD release! (probably 2 disc)

BTW: I saw LXG and this was MUCH better!!!
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#13 of 27 OFFLINE   Ricardo C

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Posted May 07 2004 - 10:35 PM



Not aiming to be "highbrow" entertainment is NOT an excuse to do a mediocre job. Excellence is achievable in any genre.

I "tolerated" more than "enjoyed" this one. Didn't hate it, but it could have been so much more. An even Posted ImagePosted Image out of Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

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#14 of 27 OFFLINE   Jordan_E

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Posted May 08 2004 - 03:27 AM

Posted Image
'nuff said.
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#15 of 27 OFFLINE   MattFini

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Posted May 08 2004 - 03:55 AM

Terrible, terrible movie. I'm not against summer movies at all, but jeeze, I'd like them to at least make sense. I hope this sucker tanks at the box office.
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#16 of 27 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted May 08 2004 - 10:11 AM

Put me on the I liked it side. I was'nt Blown away by it but I found that i got my 6.25 out of it for what it was. I agree the plot could've been beefed up. The roles for Jackman and Beckinsale were underwritten and the CGI went to the extremes Stunning one minute, pretty fake the next. But Director Somers tried to Meld the old Universal monsters with a good dose of Hammer (Actually I felt more Hammer than Universal) and for the most part he pulled it off. Could've trimmed about 20 min thou and it would've been tighter. I give it a 7/10.
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#17 of 27 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted May 08 2004 - 10:51 AM

It's rotten - a movie aimed at people who have never seen a real movie before, especially a Universal horror movie. Sommers is a joke - four bad movies and this is the worst of the lot. He now officially goes on my "Do Not Ever Watch Another Movie Again" list along with its poster boy, Michael Bay.
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#18 of 27 OFFLINE   Todd H

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Posted May 08 2004 - 03:42 PM

What a bad way to start off the summer movie season. I really wanted to like this movie, especially after the cool beginning. But it quickly deteriorated into nothing more than an excuse to throw a lot of cgi and explosions onto the screen. And boy was the cgi terrible. And the story? Damn if I can figure it out.

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#19 of 27 OFFLINE   Adam Barratt

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Posted May 09 2004 - 12:48 AM

As I watched this wretched movie, I had the distinct sensation that brain cells were dying by their billions. This movie is, quite simply, the worst 'blockbuster' summer movie yet made. Those expecting redeeming qualities of any sort to grasp upon will be sorely disappointed. This film doesn't just insult its viewers, it kicks them in the groin with steel-capped boots and then keys their cars. Armageddon, Godzilla, and yes, even Battlefield Earth possess more coherence, plot and acting skill than this diabolical excuse for a movie. At an unbearably protracted 135 minutes this movie felt more like a CGI effects house show-reel than a fully formed movie. Plot, characters and acting are a cutting-room afterthought. The plot itself is a fever-induced jumble of randomly mixed monster-movie elements, the Tarzan, Alien and James Bond movies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and even Speed (with a horse and carriage in place of a bus). Like a heroin addict Stephen Sommers has used larger and larger doses of CGI in each successive movie he has directed, and this movie is so stuffed to the gills with effects shots that it contains virtually nothing else. Naturally these effects aren't used as a means to support and advance the movie so much as to beat viewers into submission. This movie made me feel like Alexander de Large of A Clockwork Orange minus the eyelid retractors. At this rate Stephen Sommers' next film will be two hours of epilepic fit-inducing flashing colours with a soundtrack of white noise. Richard Roxburgh, as Dracula, sets the tone early with an appalling (unintentional?) comic performace that gives Van Helsing's primary protagonist the menace of a baby squirrel. Things only get worse from there. Kate Beckinsale flies through the air like a gymnast, but is decidely less dextrous whenever uttering her Translyvanian-accented lines. Hugh Jackman is barely awake through the film. The only emotional reaction I had to the pair was in their last scene. Supposedly sad, the only tears I managed were the result of uncontrollable fits of giggling. I half expected to see the Lion King's Simba appear onscreen. As for the other monsters, Frankenstein's creation is played as a simplistic, one-dimensional faded photocopy of Brannagh's simplistic interpretation. The wolfman is as intimidating as a plastic spoon, and the victim of probably the film's worst CGI work. I can only hope that this vile film has a stake plunged through its heart quickly by viewers, and that the negatives are doused in holy water and buried deep in an unmarked grave. This may be a film about monsters, but the only thing truly monstrous is the film itelf. No stars.

#20 of 27 OFFLINE   LorenzoL

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Posted May 09 2004 - 01:15 AM

Well, I watched the movie last night and came away very dissapointed from the whole experience.

Universal missed out on a great opportunity of building a great franchise with this movie.

My feeling is that Sommers expected the audience to forget about the bad script, dialogue and acting with the use of CGI and placing "eye candy" like the Brides and Kate Beckingsale. Although I have to admit that liked Hugh Jackman performance.

Overall I give it a Posted Image Posted Image out Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image