The 2004 summer movie season officially kicks off with the hotly anticipated Van Helsing, the latest from writer/director Stephen Sommers (1999's The Mummy and 2001's The Mummy Returns). Word to the wise—if you know the name Van Helsing, avoid this film. Even if you don't know the name, for that matter, avoid this film.
Van Helsing is the old professor from Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel, Dracula, specializing in exotic diseases and folklore. Memorably played by the likes of Peter Cushing and Anthony Hopkins in previous adaptations of the story, he's part Sherlock Holmes, part sci-fi B-movie scientist. The movie Van Helsing is something of a prequel that intriguingly explores the famed vampire expert's back-story. What was his first encounter with the undead? What was he like in his prime?
In his film, Sommers envisions Van Helsing (X-Men's Hugh Jackman) as a notorious and misunderstood monster hunter ("part priest, part murderer"), employed by a secret society based in the Vatican—spearheaded by the Catholic Church, naturally, yet embracing all religions. Van Helsing returns to headquarters after a botched attempt to bring back the infamous Mr. Hyde (aka Dr. Jekyll) alive from Paris. After gearing up in a blatant plagiarizing of James Bond, he is sent to Trannsylvania with a young friar named Carl (David Wenham) to uncover the plans of a certain Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh, League of Extraordinary Gentleman), and to protect the surviving members of a royal gypsy family, Velkan (Will Kemp) and Anna (Kate Beckinsale of Underworld, a better movie about vampires and werewolves).
Van Helsing's past is shrouded in mystery since he has no memory of it. His earliest recollection is of fighting the Romans at Masada, ...1
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