We’re not sure that author Bram Stoker would’ve ever imagined that the characters in his beloved novel “Dracula” would one day be considered multi-billion dollar franchise properties. Though it doesn’t just stop at the titular character – played most famously by the one and only Bela Lugosi – but also the man who was always hot on the heels of the fanged phantom; Abraham Van Helsing. It’s a character that’s been portrayed by actors like Peter Cushing, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins – and to a lesser extent, Hugh Jackman. The latter talent was behind the character in “The Mummy” director Stephen Sommers’ 2004 “Van Helsing,” a glaringly obvious attempt to line-up all of Universal Studios’ classic movie monsters for a major monster mash of a franchise. Let’s just say that Van Helsing hasn’t had any outings at the cinema since.
There’s long been talks by the suits at Universal about rebooting the character – in fact Guillermo del Toro once had it on his lengthy to-do list – and we learned back at the start of May that Tom Cruise had been lined up to play the infamous vampire slayer, with “Star Trek” and “Transformers” co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci co-producing along with the star. Recently chatting with Crave Online, Kurtzman talked about his upcoming branch out into more dramatic fare with this week’s “People Like Us,” but also took a moment to whet the appetite of anyone begging for the return of Van Helsing.
“Well, I don’t want to give away too much, because we are actually at the very beginning of talking about what to do with it. But I do feel like the Van Helsing that Anthony Hopkins plays in '[Bram Stoker’s] Dracula' is sort of the parody version of it, and the Van Helsing that Hugh Jackman played was obviously in a different place as well. I think that these kinds of movies have evolved a lot since then. You know, ‘The Dark Knight’ was a major, major corner-turning moment in the way that genre and superhero stories could be told. Really grounded in reality. Really grounded in really cool things," he said. "That’s what I’d like to do without sacrificing the fantasy element. We aspired to do that as well on 'Trek,' you know, keep it 'real.' That’s such a different franchise than Batman, but that’s really what we wanted to do. And we’d love to do that with Van Helsing.”
Weren’t we just wondering where the sense of fun has gone from most modern blockbusters? It would look as if Kurtzman and company are looking to go to the exact opposite side of the spectrum from the Gothic nature of Anthony Hopkins in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and certainly away from Sommers’ campy “Van Helsing” – heading directly into much darker territory. We get that Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has done wonders at the box office and has provided a much-needed dose of creativity to the superhero genre, but it’s practically rendered the phrase “grounded in reality” meaningless – especially when it occasionally feels like what they mean to say is “we want to duplicate the success of ‘The Dark Knight.' ” We’ll have to watch this one as it develops, but right now we’re wondering why they want to turn a Stetson-wearing vampire hunter into more “real” territory. Ugh.