Friday, May 21, 2004

At The Movies: Van Helsing a.k.a. The Anti-Passion

Roger Ebert once wrote what I think is the most brilliant fisking of a movie in a review. The film in question was the Rob Reiner movie "North", starring Elijah Wood et al. This is what he had to say about it:
"I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Read the whole review here. This statement crystalizes exactly my attitude toward Van Helsing.

Did I like anything about this movie? One thing only. Kate Beckinsale is very attractive and the filmakers took every step to make sure she was alluring without being trampy.

The film struck me like watching someone play a video game. The effects abound but add nothing to the film. Think back on how the battle scenes in LOTR:TFOTR looked. They spread the canvas of the film open to everything the book suggests through words, even though you knew it was fakery. I could never get over the degree of fakery involved in this story. If they had animated the whole thing they might have made a better movie.

Also, I found the presentation of the Catholic Church particularly offensive and irritating. For instance, the movie depicts that under St. Peter's there is a vast weapons lab where the Church fights evil. No reference to prayer, or fasting, or anything of a spiritual nature. Anyone care to guess what the not-so-subtle subtext is? The Church is only able to fight evil with money and power, and there are like the evil they fight. Dracula has got some serious undead bling-bling going on. Also, the Vatican employs lots of other religions help them build the weapons to fight evil, demonic beings. After all, our James Bond character, as Van Helsing is depicted, must engage in syncretism since all religions are equally good. Then the theological confusion continues onward as the plot revolves around a noble family whose patriarch damns everyone to PURGATORY unless they kill Dracula. If you can't figure out the error, hie thee to your catechism. Lastly, there is an exchange between Van Helsing and the friar (Don't ask which order. I couldn't figure it out) which leads to a very tasteless moment. In the lab, the friar utters some curse word, and Van Helsing, in jest, says, "You can't say that. You're a monk." The friar replies, "Yes, I can. I'm a friar not a monk." Later, after said friar helps to save a buxom woman, she asks how she can repay him. He whispers in her ear, and she pulls back, in shock, and says, "You can't do that. You're a monk." The friar says, "Actually, I'm a friar." The next scene we find them in bed together. So Maria Monk and Jack Chick are apparently ghostwriting for Hollywood now.

The rest of the movie proceeds as one would expect. In the end, the movie only conveys one truth. In the battle against evil, virtue, sacrifice, and the Passion of Christ have no power. Only the ability to do violence and kick booty matter. I guess this match goes to Satan since this has been his line from the beginning.

Overall review: 1 out of 5 bananas.

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