Hugh Jackman played the monster hunter Van Helsing in the aptly titled film Van Helsing back in 2004. That movie was critically savaged (and deservedly so), and the idea of a Van Helsing movie has pretty much been sitting on the shelf ever since then. Now, it sounds like Universal wants to dust off the property and give it a brand new spin with some truly talented folks behind the wheel.
Deadline reports that Universal is digging up the old Hugh Jackman property and doing a totally new version of Van Helsing. Who will be in charge of the new project? Julius Avery will be directing and prolific filmmaker James Wan will be producing under his Atomic Monster banner. Julius Avery might not sound like the most recognizable name at first, but his 2018 horror movie Overlord made quite the impression when it came out a few years ago. Of course, James Wan has been involved in tons of successful movies such as Saw, The Conjuring, and the Aquaman films to name a few. It sounds like quite the powerhouse duo.
The bigger question here is what kind of take this new version of Van Helsing will decide to go with. The Hugh Jackman film patterned itself after the blockbuster action trends of the early ’00s. That led to a lot of ridiculous fight scenes and other poor decisions. Plus, that film saw its budget reach astronomical levels. After its poor performance at the American box office, it is likely that universal will take a slightly different approach with this new version.
Though the plot details for this riff on Van Helsing are being kept under wraps, there is some good news for anyone who wants to see something slightly darker than the Hugh Jackman movie. That film had to meet a PG-13 rating since it was being sold as a four-quadrant blockbuster. However, Universal has said that they are open to any takes on these monster properties. After the success of the truly exceptional The Invisible Man earlier this year (which was rated R), it seems like Universal is going to treat these properties more like the horror stories from whence they are spawned.
Much like the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing tried to do back in 2004, Universal had originally planned to create a shared connected universe with their Monsters property. That project was called the Dark Universe and was set to kick off with 2017’s The Mummy, starring blockbuster star Tom Cruise. After the dismal reception and box office that the movie received, Universal decided to completely scrap the Dark Universe idea. Now, it seems they will be making standalone films that are more horror-focused instead of action.
However, the Hugh Jackman movie decided to blend together a number of recognizable monsters in its plot including Dracula, Frankenstein, and even Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Normally, the character of Abraham Van Helsing is an opponent of Count Dracula alone. The character was invented by author Bram Stoker in the original 1897 novel Dracula. Will this new take on the character only have him face the horrors of the vampire king, or will he be running up against other familiar creatures from the Universal Monsters’ canon?
Maybe the most important question for mainstream audiences will be who the filmmakers choose to play Van Helsing. Although the Hugh Jackman film was a disappointment, it is still a role the actor is associated with. Our collective pop-culture memory will still place Jackman as the premier actor to play the part, even though other prominent thespians have taken on the role. Some of those include Anthony Hopkins in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Peter Cushing in a number of their Dracula films, and even comedian Jim Gaffigan in the animated family comedy Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.
Regardless of whoever steps into Hugh Jackman’s boots, it is exciting to see that a new version of Van Helsing will be making its way to the world of movies. The character and his monster-filled world are ripe for exploration and innovation. If Julius Avery and James Wan can deliver something as potent, well-crafted, and enjoyable as The Invisible Man, they could have a bonafide hit on their hands.