Rakesh's movie talk
Van Helsing (2004)

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Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale and Richard Roxburgh.

Continuing on my opening comments of Hellboy (Super Sapiens), I wonder why they didn't rename this movie. Why didn't our local (Malaysian) censor board object to the movie or the title. It is about demons, vampires and werewolf. It shows that man can be god (Frankenstein). Hell, even Van Helsing's name has the word 'Hell' in it. Maybe it should be renamed as Van Super Sapiens Sing. But then that will make him a Punjabi, wouldn't it?


So, here we are watching a movie that was immediately panned by critics worldwide (haven't read criticism from reviewers in China, Korea or Turkey though). At the same, all of them were sympathetic with Hugh Jackman. What is my assessment? As if I care, you say? Then you are in the wrong site.


I loved this movie. It is every bit as enjoyable as another disaster released about a year ago, A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Both movies have its flaws, but they do not mar your enjoyment.


I, for one, love vampire movies that are rooted on Bram Stokers (not Ann Rice, mind you) creation. The best will always be the earliest. Since I have not seen it, I would rate Francis Coppola's version as the definitive one. This movie borrows a lot from Coppola's vision. From the production design right up to the music, which can be a bit overbearing at times.


Here you have a bounty hunter tale of Van Helsing hunting down all the monsters ranging from the Count himself, right up to the Wolf Man. The action scenes are well choreographed. The CGIs can get a bit cartoonish, but they were not meant to be taken seriously, say like the present Star Wars movies. The production design is gorgeous. So are the babes... I wonder if the Count mind if I borrow one of his brides.


Anyway, the star of this show is Hugh Jackman. His Van Helsing is a combination of Eastwood's Man with No Name and Connery's Bond. Ruthless, fearsome and at times, introspective. His Van Helsing is a far cry from the definitive portrayal by Peter Cushing (of the Hammer films, starring another definitive Dracula, Christopher Lee), who's more happy in flashing crucifix than actually going hand in hand combat with the bad guys.


Van Helsing here is one mean mother. As one of my colleague aptly put, "if I am Dracula or Wolf Man, I would run for my life, dude." What more complement can we afford to Jackman's performance. When I watch present day cop movies, I wonder, "Where are you Dirty Harry?". When I watched this movie, I was wondering, "Where were the real you, Van old-boy?"


As for Kate Beckinsale, she looks good in the corset. That's about it. The script does not do much for her character except do what the other action movies, including 007 ones, do to their heroines - reduce them to the heroes' sidekicks.


And now we come to the weakest part of the movie - the Count himself. Played by Richard Roxburgh, Count Dracula here looks and sounds like the younger version of Leslie Nielson (in Dracula: Dead and Loving it). The gravity-challenged Count looks like he is right out of a Dick Tracy comic. Terribly out of place, even though the movie takes a comic book approach in its look and pace.


All in all, good fun. The gadgets are cool. My argument is, when Pierce decides to retire, give the 007 license to kill to Jackman. He has what it takes as proven in this movie.

Run for your life, Van Helsing is here to kick your butt...