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Van Helsing (SE)
DVD disk
08.05.2008 By: Jason Adams
Van Helsing (SE) order
Director:
Stephen Sommers

Actors:
Hugh Jackman
Kate Beckinsale
Richard Roxburgh

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The world famous monster hunter Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania where he becomes entangled in a battle involving Frankenstein, werewolves and Dracula.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
VAN HELSING should've been a slam dunk. Combining the classic Universal monsters together in one film, complete with a big budget and effects by ILM, is a great recipe for geek delight. Even with an acceptable level of cheese, this should've been a fun time at the movies. And I kept my hopes up, from early pre-production artwork all the way until 20 minutes in.

It’s obvious Stephen Sommers loves the iconic monster characters and wants to do something special with them. The movie even seemed like a natural extension from his more-entertaining-than-it should’ve-been THE MUMMY. Unfortunately he’s just not that great of a storyteller or filmmaker to pull it off. Aside from the opening black and white Frankenstein sequence, which provides a false hope for greatness, pretty much everything other aspect of the movie misses the mark. The story is filled with problems and holes that can’t be ignored, even on a mindless level. The way the monsters are weaved in to the story is forced and hackneyed. Hugh Jackman is buyable as the titular hero, but without a script to back him up the character is boring beyond recognition. Then there’s Kate Beckinsale, whose accent is so laughably bad and her performance so wooden, Jackman could've used her to kill vampires.

The design work for the creatures, especially the werewolves and vampire brides is creative, but loses a lot in execution. The digital effects work is overall fairly tight, but there was way too much reliance on CG. Much of the film, especially the final fight look too much like video game cut scenes. A little creativity and less laziness with practical effects could’ve made VAN HELSING a lot cooler than it ended up being.
THE EXTRAS
Not sure exactly sure who asked for a Two-Disc Collector’s Edition, but here you go…

Disc1:
Commentary by writer/director Stephen Sommers and producer/editor Bob Duscay: Sommers is quite excited talking about the film and his energy is a infectious enough to make you want to listen to what he has to say. Unfortunately, the rest of the film gets in the way.

Commentary by actors Richard Roxburgh, Shuler Hensley and Will Kemp: All three have very theatrical voices, but the track suffers from the lack of bigger stars who are more prominent in the film.

Explore Dracula’s Castle: A cheesy interactive tour of the set with annoying narration.

Bloopers (5:39): Slightly humorous. Jackman looks like a fun dude.

Bringing The Monster’s to Life (10:00): The effects stuff you’ve probably seen before, but its still pretty cool watching how they brought the various creatures and money shots to life.

You In The Movie (4:28): Hidden cameras placed on the actual film cameras give you the illusion of actually being on set. Congratulations.

The Legend of Van Helsing (10:09): A quick look at the character in film history, before Sommers, Jackman and crew talk about their take on the monster hunter.

Trailers, Previews and something about an X-Box.


Disc 2:
The Burning Windmill (6:36): A look at the climactic destruction of the opening Frankenstein sequence, where not everything goes according to plan.

Dracula’s Castle (7:50): The design of the set is cool, as is the mix of CG and miniature models used to film it.

Frankenstein’s Lab (6:32): A peek at the opening set piece and how Sommers and his production designer tried to capture the atmosphere of the 1931 James Whale film.

The Village (8:09): A full size Transylvanian village built in the Czech Republic, along with some notes on the vampire bride attack sequence.

The Vatican Armory (5:28): The pope meets James Bond’s Q.

Explore Frankenstein’s Lab: About as worthless as the above Dracula walkthrough.

Dracula’s Lair Transformed (2:40): Time lapse footage of the set construction.

The Music of VAN HELSING (9:41): Alan Silvestri composes and performs the score.

Dracula (11:37): A look at Richard Roxburgh’s take on the infamous character and Sommers’ design for the creature.

Frankenstein’ Monster (9:25): Same as above, but for the famous fire-hating monster.

The Werewolves: I still kinda dig the idea of a werewolve ripping off human skin.

The Women of VAN HELSING (14:29): Fangs and a thirst for blood…I’d still hit it.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Four years later, VAN HELSING remains one of the more unfortunate cinematic wastes. (One can only imagine what a real filmmaker like Guillermo Del Toro could've done with such potential material.) This new DVD set has lots of bonus material. It’s a shame the film doesn’t warrant it.

Extra Tidbit: I recently realized that Kate Beckinsale's name is not Kate Becksinsdale.
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