Top critical review
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Great effects, let down by the script
on 14 March 2005
The critics tore the film to pieces, but my family thought it was brilliant, so I thought I would have a look and make up my own mind.
What I found was that I enjoyed the film up to a point, that point being at about the hour mark. After that the coincidences just got too much for me. For example, when Frankenstein's monster swings on an unfeasibly long rope and smashes through one of hundreds of windows in the castle, it just happens to be the window of the room where a crucial fight is occuring. Also, the internal logic of the film seemed to unravel a bit, and the sub-plot device of Van Helsing's history and missing memory intruded too much.
It has to said, though, that the sets and special effects all the way through are amazing, with some of the best human/werewolf transitions ever seen. The best CGI effect, in my opinion, was near the beginning where Mr Hyde (voiced by Robbie Coltrane) and Van Helsing fought in Notre Dame cathedral. The carriage chase was also a stunning set piece, even if the jump was as ridiculous as the one in Speed.
The disc itself is a good one. The main feature has a clear picture (essential when much of the film is quite dark) and unobtrusive surround sound. The extras are also of a high quality. Aside from two commentaries, one from the director and producer and one from several of the actors, there is a better-than-average feature on the special effects, a compilation of 'bloopers', a tour of Dracula's castle, information about the characters from the classic Universal horror films and a feature called "You are in the movie". This last feature shows some scenes with footage shot from extra cameras fixed on the set or attached to the main camera, and gives an interesting view of the film-making process. There is also an option to view the film and jump into this mode when a special icon appears on the screen.
There are some amusing touches in the film. The scene where Van Helsing is equiped for his mission in the Vatican's 19th Century equivalent of James Bond's department Q is a nice touch. When Mr Hyde smashes into the bell in Notre Dame and comes out wit Quasimodo's catchphrase is another. I was just dissapointed that the second half of the film was not as entertaining as the first.
Even though I tired of the story, I may well watch this again to gawp at the effects or listen to the commentary so it can't be all bad - more like a missed opportunity to make a classic film.