Partly because I'd heard in so many reviews that this movie was awful, and party just because it was one of the biggest flops of the year, I didn't have very high expectations of this one. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so damn much.
This movie follows the story of Doctor Gabriel Van Helsing, who we all know from Bram Stoker's Dracula as an ageing professor who takes on the evil count. Here, however, he is a young and handsome demon hunter / acrobatics expert with an array of cool weapons. In the opening scene of the movie we see Doctor Frankenstein, under the supervision of Dracula, bringing his monster to life while the torch-wielding peasants are already storming his castle. Meanwhile, Van Helsing takes on Mr Hyde in the Notre Dame Cathedral. These scenes pretty much set the tone of the whole thing. The plot has absolutely no internal consistency, but when the film looks this good, how much does it really matter? ... yes, it's stupid, but if you can get in the right frame of mind it can also be a lot of fun.
The acting unfortunately isn't that great ... Hugh Jackman isn't really given a whole lot to work with as far as his Van Helsing character is concerned, and for the most part he simply gives his 'Wolverine' performance all over again, especially towards the end. Kate Beckinsale is a fine actress and has the perfect face for gothic horror, as best shown in Underworld, but here with her silly Transylvanian accent and looking like Catherine Zeta Jones, it just doesn't work. Probably the most memorable performance comes from David 'Faramir' Wenham, who provides most of the comic relief as Van Helsing's bible-bashing sidekick.
In terms of special effects it's pretty amazing -- this movie did, after all, have a ludicrous amount of money thrown at it ($160 million), but perhaps relying so heavily on CGI was a mistake. Many directors have said that if an effect can be achieved physically, often that's the best route to take. And here, the computer-generated stuff is at times very distracting as rather than being involved in the plot you're sitting there thinking, "Oo, doesn't that creature look good?" The soundtrack is also very cool (even the bits stolen from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade").
It's unfortunate that this wasn't the box-office hit it was clearly intended to be, but if you're in the mood for a big, stupid, fun action movie that makes no sense and has absolutely no point to it, this one is as good as any.
A great monster movie. Fantastic special effects. The werewolves look incredibly photorealistic. Not even make up effects artist could come close to touch the work used here!
Man this is a great movie!! I agree with Timberwolf about the werewolf in the movie. I am sorry to you old Van Helsing lovers, but I think the movie was great and that it brought more people into liking vampires and werewolf movies.
Romance... vampires VS werewolves... I tell you, Twilight doesn't got SHIT over this movie!! While romance is pretty subtle in this movie, the typical feisty woman falling for the rough and touch hero.
I always think about two particular things about werewolf movies, and that is; scare factor, and how suited up the appearance of this werewolf is.
This movie isn't exactly scary, but instead has a strong telling of the history between asshole vampires and mutt werewolves.
As for the appearance of the werewolf in this movie, LOVE IT! Some people try to hard on making werewolves scary with some really fucked up looking faces, but this movie got it right.
So.. sit down and fucking enjoy this movie!
Okay, so these are probably the best computer-generated werewolves so far ... but then, that's not really saying much. As a general rule, CG werewolves aren't really that scary, but in this movie they don't have to be. Mostly they just have to have some substance to them, so that they can take part in the action sequences without looking out of place. And, for the most part, they can. There are some very cool visual ideas in some of these sequences (see third photo down), and altogether we get to see three different werewolf designs (see the three photos below).
The transformation scenes are particularly interesting ... they seem to be based around the idea that changing involves "shedding a skin", so when changing to a werewolf then the wolf with tear of it's own human skin to reveal wolf skin underneath, and when changing back the wolf tears off it's fur to reveal bones over which human skin quickly grows (see top two photos). This is probably the best idea in the whole film, and very in keeping with the old werewolves myths which tend to mention skins quite a lot. Sometimes all that is required to change into a werewolf is to put on a magical wolfskin (pelt).
There are also references to the earlier "Wolf Man" movies. Just as in "The Wolf Man", the change to a wolf is supposed to be permenant after the first month, although here they say it's after the first full moon or something ... it's one of the aspects of the plot that makes absolutely no sense. The timing of the full moons is also very suspect, and whoever wrote the script appears to have no clue about how the lunar cycle works. There is also a very cool scene in which the 'friar' character reads a tablet which becomes animated (see bottom photo), and on it is written Curt Siodmak's poem from the earlier "Wolf Man" films, but with an extra verse added.