Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Big, dumb, & loud

Last night I was rather tired after watching Antiques Roadshow and was channel surfing for something to watch and landed on Van Helsing.  I'd actually gone to the theater to see it back when it was released in 2004.  As I remember, I had gone with my friend, Roche.  We often would take in a film on Saturdays, our taste were pretty similar, it was a good way to end the work week, and also quite a fun thing to do.  Also as I remember, there really wasn't much else on and Roche and me both like action, SF, adventure type films, and this one seemed appropriate enough. 

However, when the movie began I immediately got out of the mood.  For one thing, I'd just worn shorts and a very light-weight shirt that night as it was the middle of summer, and it was subzero degrees inside that theater that night--that really didn't help matters.  I remember shivering and trying to watch the opening part to the story, and the volume was turned up so darn loud as some theaters overdo their sound systems, it was a totally miserable experience for me, and I wasn't that much into the silly film either.  So I told Roche, I'm walking.  He sort of looked at me quite astonished, as I think actually he was enjoying into the film, but I just said, I'm not feeling well, and split.

So last night I gave it another day in court, and I got a different experience from the film.  Mind you it was not that it is a high artistic achievement, but a different take.  When I saw Hugh Jackman in his costume, it immediately reminded me of Solomon Kane from the Robert E. Howard stories.  The story did have this pulpy feel to it, and taken in that mold, seemed okay.  Van Helsing is also a mashup of comedy, Universal monster flicks, and pulp adventure all rolled into one.  That still doesn't make it a great film, but taken within that context, it can be an entertaining one, if you're in the mood.

There are several things you have to ignore, however, there's too much CG in the movie, the movie plays too loud, even with the volume at a tolerable level, and really there's not a lot of plot to it, and what plot there is, is totally silly--so you more or less have to turn your brain down to #1 or so, and throw suspension of disbelief off a high gargoyle wall, and just watch it for mindless fun.  Also it could have been edited down a bit, as I thought it was a bit long.  With that said though it can be a fairly fun, escapism movie.  I really don't think it was made for any reason beyond that, other than maybe if it did well at the box office, another sequel might be made.  Which actually I wouldn't mind, if they played it a tad bit straighter.

The whole plot centers around Dracula trying to find and perfect the Frankenstein formula in a effort to create children with his wives.  Since they are undead, they need that.  The film gets started as Van Helsing is tracking down Doctor Hyde (of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and botches that adventure.  He returns to Vatacan City, his headquarters more or less, where he meets up with Q to get some high-tech weapons, and Carl, his sidekick.  The next stop is Transylvania where he meets up with Kate Beckinsale and learns eventually about her brother.  Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and her brother, come from a long lineage of a family intent on vanquishing Dracula from their city.

Now you'll see characters swoop, tumble through branches of trees, fall backwards, get up leap tall buildings with a single bound like superheroes, so you just have to go with that.  Like I said, this film is pretty much all style, little substance.  But I think the style, is part of the draw.  I don't know how much of this film is CG and where the real set designs are used, but overall it has a nice look.  The costumes are great, and some of the creatures are pretty menacing enough to give a young kid nightmares, but it's all played for fun.  Granted it's a thin line whether you feel it goes too far one way or the other, and depends on your mood if you're into this sort of film at all, but last night I found it fun enough.


At 9:19 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

That was pretty much my take on it. I suppose it is arguable that once one accepts vampires one has opened the door to pretty much any silliness, even Van Helsing as a secret agent battling the paranormal. The quantity of silliness we prefer becomes a matter of taste. I generally prefer less.

Helsing has certainly changed since the days of Edward Van Sloan's portrayal in Dracula and Dracula's Daughter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_2YyzNAT98

At 9:54 AM, Blogger SFF said...

Gosh that was a terrible film and I wouldn't want to see it again.

I like both actors quite a bit, but even they couldn't save this Stephen Sommers film. Awfully bad.

Your post title says it all.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger El Vox said...

I agree Rich once you accept some of the plot, well the rest is in the pudding and I guess you're expected to roll with it. But like you, I prefer things less silly, however, I'm not opposed to humor. It's all a matter of how it's directed.

I think Sommers more or less made up his own mythology to the monsters and just created what he want to create as a lot of it didn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Nor was it based much on any mythos that came before. I guess these type films are popcorn films, easily digestible, but not much fiber. :)

SFF--Sometimes I watch too much fluff, but sometimes it fits the mood. I don't think any of Sommers films have aimed at high art, they are what they is. :)

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

Ah my friend you are a lot kinder to this film than I was. I think I was expecting a bit more with this film. They could have done some really fun things with the characters and concept, but it just kept getting dumber and dumber as the film trundled along. I remember this being one of those cases were the action scenes were so long and drawn out (and CG filled) that there was no tension and therefore made the movie feel even longer than it was. And the acting choices by the actor playing Dracula made him one of the most non-threatening vampires this side of "Twilight".

I'm fine with goofy fun. I really enjoy Sommers "The Mummy". But this one really was one long misfire. The best part about it was the score by Alan Silvestri (of "Back to the Future" fame). It's loud and bombastic, but a lot of fun to listen to in fall.

At 7:43 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Ha, I'd agree. I've lightened up my view on it some, Roman, as when I first saw it, I probably would have just given it a failing grade. Even when compared to something similar like Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein, it's pretty dismissive for all the reasons you've stated. If there were ever a movie that fits the description of just turn your brain off and have some fun with it, I guess this one might fit, depending on one's mood and taste. Even then, I could probably name a few others I might recommend in that category to try before this one.

But yes, it totally lacks any pathos, the little romance between Beckinsale and Jackman is pretty superficial, as is any sympathy at the loss of (Anna) Beckinsale's brother in the film.

I'd also agree, The Mummy is the better film. I just so happened to catch Van Helsing off cable TV and for that it was fine, a silly diversion for the night. I said the movie had no plot, however, it did (a simple one with many subplots), maybe too many subplots, and they were all entwined together. I think Sommers could have made them a bit more cohesive or simplified them. As it is, it tends to wear you down while watching it.

But what I found odd upon revisiting it, and one of the reasons I wrote the review is that my opinion had changed and I could see it in another light. I still have criticisms about the film and think had Sommers fixed a few flaws it would have been so much better.

By the way I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol last night, really enjoyed it.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Van Helsing is certainly not a great movie but I enjoyed it for what it was, which was a not-very-serious terrible vampire movie. I'm a big fan of well-done vampire books and movies...the original novel is one of my favorite books of all time. But this movie is NOT one that would be considered canonical. It's one of those so-bad-it's-good films :)


Post a Comment

<< Home