April 29th, 2004


David Wenham. Wow.

Last night I got to attend an advance screening of Van Helsing, which was fun. It’s a big dumb action movie, which is no surprise since the writer/director, Stephen Sommers, is the same guy responsible for The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. He seems to be the go-to guy for updating Universal Studios’ atmospheric, studio-bound, black-and-white chillers into fast, loud, CGI-driven, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink-and-the-stuff-in-the-drain-trap extravaganzas. (I must give him credit for incorporating the “Even a man who is pure in heart...” poem from The Wolf Man, an unexpectedly lovely moment.) On reflection, it’s kind of weird that he chose to put Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, and the Wolf Man in this one movie. Perhaps he decided to use all the remaining horror icons to prevent pigeonholing; otherwise, he might have been churning out horror remakes for years to come.

But I’ve wandered from my original subject, which is the actor who plays Carl. Carl is the sidekick who does triple duty as the bookish researcher, supplier of lethal gadgetry, and comic relief. From his first appearance (in a hidden laboratory in the bowels of Vatican City with a hilariously pansecular staff—it’s like the Austin Powers version of the U.N., in which the Spanish delegates are a matador and a flamenco dancer), I found myself staring at his face, muttering, I’ve seen this guy, I know this guy, who the hell is that?

The answer, as those of you who read the subject field have probably guessed, is David Wenham, a.k.a. Faramir in Lord of the Rings. When I read his name in the credits I went into full omigod forehead-slap mode. I mean, aside from his haircut he looks exactly as he did in LOTR, yet I utterly failed to recognize him because the performances are so completely different.

Now that is acting.
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    impressed impressed

More random thoughts on Van Helsing

• Black and white prologue! Torch-bearing villagers! Kickin’ it old skool, y’all. Word.

• Hugh Jackman is big. Like, seriously large. Just this side of hulking. He makes it work.

• Kate Beckinsale’s primary costume reminded me of Alan Moore’s comment that if he were a superheroine, he’d probably wear lots of layers and comfortable shoes. But at least she has her eyeliner to keep her warm.

• This movie ought to have a “cloud wrangler” credit. I have never seen such convenient weather.

• Lots of well-placed ropes and cables, too.

• For a self-proclaimed heartless, hollow shell, Dracula sure is excitable.

• Green explosions, shapeshifters, and gooey pod things. It’s the SF/Action Hat Trick.

• Can this ending be any less subtle?

• Well, that was like watching a vintage Rolls go into a chop shop and come out a hot rod.
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