Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

This past weekend, the Mysterious Mr. C and I had quite the movie marathon. It was definitely not planned and consisted of movies that were on television so we ended up with quite an eclectic mix. One of the films that made the cut was 2004’s Van Helsing, starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. Though I had seen the movie before, it had been a while and I couldn’t believe it came out a decade ago!

While the movie was, at times, fun – the banter between Van Helsing and Carl was particularly amusing – it was also painful – oh the horrendous Transylvanian (maybe they were trying from Romanian?) accents! The special effects for the vampires and Frankenstein’s monster were also a bit over-the-top and I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Van Helsing came out a little bit before its time. 

It is true that some films today rely too heavily on computer-generated effects, but there is no denying that the advances in technology over the years have smoothed out the imagery. Animal fur appears incredibly realistic on screen, alien worlds are created with brilliant detail, and transformations from human to superhero – or vampire or werewolf – are seamless.

Watching Van Helsing again, I was struck by how much it could benefit from the new capabilities that special effects artists have at their fingertips. Then again, it could also benefit from having a lighter touch on the graphics in general.

To me, Van Helsing had a very similar look and feel as 2002’s Spiderman. True, Van Helsing had a more muted color palate, but everything had a bit of a cartoonish feel to it. And the vampires, oh the vampires. While I didn’t expect them to look like Twilight’s Cullen family, I wasn’t prepared for them to look so bat-like either. I mean, maybe that’s what the creative team was going for, but I just found it (along with those accents) distracting. As a result, I couldn’t quite decide if my overall opinion of the movie was positive or negative.

With practically everything being rebooted these days, maybe it’s time to dust Van Helsing off the shelf and give it a new life. After all, Spider-Man films are being made and re-made every few years these days, a new version of the Fantastic Four is coming soon to a theater near you, the Incredible Hulk was made just five years after the Hulk flopped at the box office, and lord knows how many Wolverine movies have come out since Jackman first appeared as the titular character (okay, okay, it’s only two, but they were two years apart and with all of the X-Men movies that have been coming out since 2000, it feels like more).

As a literary nerd, I enjoyed the overall premise of Van Helsing – any world that combines Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as Frankenstein and Dracula, is okay in my book – but I think the execution could have used some work. With people flocking to theaters these days to see the next superhero flick and technology finally at a point where it can be used with a light, yet exacting touch, perhaps a Van Helsing Part Deux wouldn’t be so bad.

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