Making the Grades
Dr. Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) chases fiends, ogres and things that go bump in the night. Working under the direction of Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong) and the Roman Catholic Church, the bounty hunter is the last line of defense between good and evil in the world.
But that doesn't mean he is always popular with the general public. Not understanding his role as defender of the human race, they often deride him as a murderer. Still, his sense of duty and his desire to find some clue about his forgotten past drives him on.
His task is not an easy one. The list of villains he has to dispose of reads like a who's who list from the realm of classic monsters. Dracula and his Brides, Igor, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and howling werewolves headline the register followed by a score of nefarious minions.
After getting rid of London's nasty Jekyll/Hyde (Stephen Fisher, Robbie Coltrane) nuisance, he is sent to Transylvania to help the last remaining member of the Valerious family fulfill the clan's responsibility to destroy Dracula (Richard Roxburgh).
Luckily, he doesn't have to go alone.
Carl (David Wenham) is a friar who spends his time developing armaments and chemical weapons in the dingy basement of the cathedral. Now the Cardinal wants him to ride along as a kind of protection for the famous hired gun. Awed by the opportunity to be with the longhaired avenger, Carl soon discovers for himself that being a liberator isn't always rewarding. After Van Helsing kills one of the Brides, the townsfolk turn against him fearing Dracula will seek revenge on their mountain village. Their menacing attitude leaves the robed cleric with a new appreciation for Van Helsing's sense of responsibility.
However, Anna (Kate Beckinsale), the only surviving Valerious, is more impressed with the two men's arrival. While she feels it's her job to rid the world of the blood-seeking vampire, she warms up to having Van Helsing help out, especially when Dracula and his cold-hearted mates redouble their efforts to get her soul.
Dimly lit scenes and drab colors give Van Helsing a dark and sometimes dreary feel. Relying heavily on the computer to turn normally lovely ladies into blood-sucking vampires, men into raging monsters and dying bodies into disintegrating puffs of dust, the storyline is often overwhelmed by the animation. The special effects also up the amount of carnage seen on screen, enhancing scenes of exploding baby vampires, an impaling, and life and death struggles.
Given the abundance of violence in the film, other content concerns are more limited, although Carl engages in some "unsaintly" behavior with a local maiden. Other moments of sensuality are shown between Dracula and his Brides, and the two vampire slayers.
Compelled to fight off impending evil, Van Helsing goes about the daily grind of his job regardless of others' opinions. Parents on the other hand, may feel equally constrained to let him carry on with his work -- without their kids in the audience.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Van Helsing.
Why did Van Helsing feel compelled to continue fighting evil even when the public harassed him? What did he know about state of affairs that the people didnt understand? What kind of similar challenges do leaders face when they make a decision that is unpopular with the masses?
What did Van Helsing believe about Frankenstein? Despite his beginnings, what choices had the monster made in his life? Are we destined to be a certain way because of our upbringing or past life?
What did Anna believe about the afterlife? How did that affect her view of death?