" You will not find it campy/charming, you will not find it entertaining, you will not find some gem of value in the 120 minutes of blinding abomination…you will not ever be able to get your life back…so just don't do it. "
Title: Van Helsing by NBC/Universal
Format: Action/Horror Farce
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: Usually this is the part of the review where we tell you what the manufacturer, in this case Universal, has to say about their product. But instead, for my Van Helsing review, I felt a departure was in order. You see, it's important that you realize a few things going into this review that will help put it in context. First off, in case you don't know, Game Monkeys is what we call a philanthropic publication-that means that the site itself generates no revenue and, as a result, none of us monkeys get paid in anything except the products we review. Though many of us are professional writers for our day jobs as well, our participation here is purely for the benefit of our fellow monkey…er...man. We write reviews because we want you, our readers, to know whether something's worth spending your hard earned bananas on. To save you time, money, and in this case, pain. Bear this in mind as I throw myself on the cross that is Van Helsing and absorb the agony and misery of witnessing it so that you don't have to.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: Hanging on the
tail of a classic monsters resurgence, Van Helsing (VH) opts to combine all
of the classic Universal monsters (wolf-man, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster,
etc.) into one rompin' stompin' action adventure movie…and make your eyes bleed
and nose run thick with your scrambled brain in the process. But I'm getting
ahead of myself, here, and must contain my rage for the appropriate times. Be
strong, Dungapult. Be strong…
So the actual plot, or what passes for one, in Van Helsing is that Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a man with no memory of his past and some minor super-human attributes (mainly that he can take more punishment than any man ever and walk happily away) who is employed by the Vatican to hunt monsters in covert operations. Why they employ him is never even hinted at, nor is the reason they send one man out to hunt supernatural abominations who have murdered dozens, but if I had to take a guess it's likely because the Vatican is secretly run by Batman. Now, I grant you, this may sound a little shocking, but the evidence to support it is actually pretty sound. They have a huge organization with tons of money yet still rely solely on an individual (other hunters aren't even hinted at), they try desperately, but inexplicably, to keep his identity secret, and in lieu of a hunting team or actual support they merely load him up with gadgets that defy the laws of physics.
But I'm a bit off track, the important part is that Hugh Jackman plays a man who is alone, with no past and a questionable future, who will do anything to get the job done. That is until he meets a group of mutants like himself who need his help to fight against the super-powerful Magneto…No, wait, that's not right…the painful amount of clichés this piece of shit movie crams together must have scrambled my brain. Let me try that again…
He's a loner who does anything to get the job done until he meets "her", Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale), the last descendent in a line of noblemen who have promised God that Dracula will die before any of them should be allowed into heaven. Why this deal is made, or how stupid her ancestors must have been to have made it (talk about a lose/lose proposition) is never really explained, but with all her ancestors and family dead, it now rests on her shoulders to save all of their souls and keep the Valerious' from eternal purgatory…by murdering the over-acting and evidently semi-retarded blood-sucking fiend (played by Richard Roxburgh). Not that you'll want them saved, however, as the two members of the clan we actually meet (her and her brother) are so ridiculously egotistical, illogical, and generally apathetic that you'll quickly be rooting for the wolf-man to eat them all.
But I digress…the point is that Rome, for some unknown reason, is desperate to save the souls of the Valerious family and so send Van Helsing to do her job for her. But, since this is Dracula he'll be tangling with, it's decreed that he'll not venture out alone…and instead will be partnered with a horribly clichéd combatively impotent bookworm sidekick, who has "never been outside of the abbey", and who will provide absolutely no assistance what-so-ever until another, more intelligent, plot device cannot be found (at which time he'll save the day). Together they form a team of heroes so completely uninspiring that I'm convinced Bella Lugosi could kick their ass…and he's been dead for almost 50 years.
Once on the scene, Van Helsing faces all manners of monsters and horrors with a stoic indifference and a string of such mindlessly macho one-line quips that I'm partially convinced Writer/Director Stephen Sommers might actually be taking credit for his 12-year-old son's work. He tangles with the woman he comes to protect before inexplicably falling in love with her, faces hordes of undead with weapons as ineffective as they are technologically insulting, and generally accomplishes nothing until the final anti-climactic fight scene with Dracula. Of course, during all this he comes face to face with most of Universal's classic monsters, all of whom are "re-imagined" on what was likely a reformed crack-whore's glue-sniffing bender…but these creature cameos do nothing to menace what is already a train ride to hell.
Now, at the screening we were asked not to spoil the ending, a "surprise" by Sommers' standards evidently, but needless to say it does absolutely no service to what is already an obviously overly contrived and under developed plot. The "twists" are so maligned that there is absolutely no service in even mentioning them here. The script, blessedly short in its elementary-school-level word count, is stretched perilously thin across this two-hour atrocity. And the developments in character and events are so unquestionably asinine that it should be grounds for either committing Sommers involuntarily to a mental ward or for kicking him repeatedly and maliciously in the groin until the pain of seeing this movie finally ebbs in your throbbing head. How he, and Universal, could have thought this could be a good movie-and why Hugh Jackman, who should have his pick of parts after the X-Men series, and Kate Beckinsale, who should be desperate to rebuild her career after Underworld, would choose to do this movie--is all beyond the imagination of man. It honestly boggles my mind and makes me want to weep at what it may mean for the future of humanity. 0 out of 5
Visuals and Directing: Though technically
some of what I'm about to rant on are script issues, I've opted to focus on
them here for simplicity. But before we get to those, though, let's talk briefly
about the visuals. An FX movie more than a story, VH tries valiantly to produce
something new and original in the horror/action FX genre but unfortunately ends
up looking more like a Sci-Fi Channel movie of the week. Poorly blended and
jerky, the CGI is painfully standoffish, the creature designs are laughable,
and the ambience of the movie is non-existent. You can tell, at times, that
they tried…but trying is not succeeding, and so visually VH crashes and burns.
But that's nothing compared to the "directing". I can't actually call it real directing, because real directing involves technique and forethought, thus I have to use the quotation marks. It is, without a doubt, some of the worst mainstream filming I've ever had the displeasure of seeing. Repetitive, stale, and artless, the "directorial" work itself is worthy of being decried. But what's much more appalling is the sheer lack of creativity that went into Van Helsing.
Evidently filmed over a single weekend, not an ounce of originality is displayed as VH unveils cliché after exhausted cliché in a spineless attempt to save time through avoiding independent thought. Not clever enough to be called an homage, and not witty enough to even just rip other movies off, VH tries desperately to piggy back on conventions created for vastly superior movies, and punishes the audience for its inability to do so. From melodrama so thick it could smother your screaming soul to character segues so undeveloped that you'll get whiplash from your head spinning, Van Helsing ends up being a portrayal literally without merit. 0 out of 5
Value vs. Admission: An honorary monkey, we'll call him "Dr. Zaius", took Cheetah and I to a press screening, and afterwards the only consolation we had is that combined it only cost us $1.50 to see it. The movie was free, parking was free, and so the only costs were the gas to get into Seattle and the irreplaceable time it took from our lives. That was some level of comfort, though as I slept last night I know my teeth were grinding in subconscious protest of whatever god we fell into enough disfavor with that he or she subjected us to such punishment. -2 out of 5 (yup, that's right, negative two out of five)
|The biggest fear I have in life right now is that someone reading this review will be so intrigued under the "it can't be that bad" banner that they'll go see it just to find out if I'm right. Honestly, it's giving me the cold sweats as I'm writing. To that all I can say is please, my monkeys, as a favor to good ole Dungapult…who has never steered you wrong…DON'T SEE THIS MOVIE. You will not find it campy/charming, you will not find it entertaining, you will not find some gem of value in the 120 minutes of blinding abomination…you will not ever be able to get your life back…so just don't do it.|
The Good: That in writing this perhaps I have saved someone else from suffering as I have.
The Bad: That I had to suffer in order to make that happen.
The Overall Ugly: I no longer fear hell.
What it's Worth: I'm pretty sure Texas has already passed a law making it legal to kill someone who tries to take you to this movie.