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Van Helsing (2004)
Horror stew in Hulk-vision
13 January 2007
Hugh Jackman could have spared himself the trouble of trying to act among an otherwise cardboard cast and settings that fit the special effects - it all looks as tasteless as is barely acceptable in something like a Hulk-sequel. The script is mainly an inconsistent sequence of clichés from various, unrelated and hardly compatible horror traditions, turning the eponymous vampire-killer into a universal monster-slayer trained by a secret Catholic order as an orphan, with some other implausible twists. The genre normally requires accepting a few unrealistic premises, but here there is almost nothing beyond that to make it worthwhile. The result is rather infantile, hardly good enough even to be mentioned in the history of Dracula-movies.
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Missed opportunity
20 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
As it isn't often I get an opportunity to see a new costume drama (a favorite genre) I was eager to see this one- and disappointed it didn't meet my expectations. As for historical plausibility (accuracy would sound absurd here, but we don't always need that in fiction) one wonders if they even tried- if so, their research team deserves to be flogged out of the business for good, this historian says. No doubt some anachronisms are intended, but unless you go for the Mel Brooks formula (Robin Hood in Tights works) it's a thin rope only far more skilled (usually British) writers can afford to walk; in stead we hear and see for example a tournament audience 'rocking' to a score better fit for a hooligan story, and poor costumes in insulting colors pain your eyes when they should be feasting on a romantic banquet. Heath Ledger's boyish charm works for the -pointless- amorous side story, but while he was perfect for The Patriot he is lost as a would-be knight- apparently aristocratic style is not one of many qualities that make Aussies lovable, after all they have been known to use the same word posh for 'British' as well as for 'pompous ass', and a miscast (though talented) lead is a usually fatal handicap. Classy Brits Rufus Sewell and James Purefoy (neither well enough known then, so the casting was probably good value for money) prove talent can still impress with sheer classical acting despite the almost hopeless surroundings. Although the part of 'Geoffrey Chaucer' as a bare-arse gambler-forger is a bit too much, Paul Bettany does a fair job, and lovers of manly nude will not be disappointed by his exposed scenes (unless your censor cut these out). All in all, the cast deserved a far better script and production, the team behind the screens won't challenge the BBC's record in costume drama if they try all this new millennium. Despite the spoiler warning, let's not bother with the 'story': there's nothing to spoil, you're almost bound to guess every 'turn' well in advance.
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