Overlong, dull, and simply not that interesting, Van Helsing is an action ride that fails to have enough entertainment value to make it a worthwhile viewing experience. The focus is purely on the special effects, which are a non-stop bombardment on the viewer. Director Stephen Sommers fails to reclaim any of the magic from his previous Mummy films with this affair.
Constant action drives this movie over the two hour mark, way past its welcome. Any plot is pushed aside to toss as many generic CGI creations as humanly possibly onto the screen. Special effects are spotty at best, and countless pieces could have been handled with traditional effects, and likely would have been far more successful.
A nice, goofy sense of humor keeps the film in modern, over-budgeted summer movie territory, though it does contain numerous homages to the classic Universal horror films it derives many of its basic concepts from. Van Helsing spends countless wasted minutes on “rules” concerning its stocked monster roster. This is dialogue that should have been spent on something resembling a coherent story.
It’s the type of film you could have on in the background as you do something constructive, looking up from time to time and still manage to figure out what’s happening on screen. Sommers crafts scenes with a sense of style, yet it’s not a way to create a more captivating movie. A werewolf transformation early in the film never seems like it’s going to end.
Some light PG-13-rated gore doesn’t add anything to the horror element, and the constant attempts at creating scares are tiring. Each one feels the same. Hugh Jackman is a fair choice for the lead role, while Kate Beckinsale handled herself far better in Underworld.
If Van Helsing led to anything positive, it prompted Universal to release their 1930 and 1940s horror films on DVD in special editions. Otherwise, it’s a waste of $160 million on the part of Universal. Sommers is capable of things better than this.
A rather flat HD DVD transfer doesn’t make the film any easier to watch. This is a dark movie, mostly set in dim lighting conditions or at night. While the black levels are deep, detail is lost in this soft, low detail presentation. Even during close ups, it’s hard to pick up on facial detail. Mild grain can be detected in a few brief shots, and the print is clean. Certain scenes do work out nicely in the end, especially the final battle. Compression issues are avoided as well. Sadly, it’s only a small step above the standard DVD in the end.