Van Helsing: The London Assignment Review
Universal are obviously putting a lot into the cinema release of Van Helsing. They got all the promos on television and all the interviews popping up on chat shows. You’d think Universal would be happy with that? Wrong! Universal have released on DVD, to follow the success of Van Helsing at the cinema, an animated short. It’s also a prequel showing our hero in combat with the evil armies of Hell even before Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankenstein became a problem for him. This has been called Van Helsing: The London Assignment. The story revolves around Mr Hyde, who was featured in the audiences’ introduction to Van Helsing in the live action movie. This is the very start of Van Helsing and Mr Hyde’s fight.
Mr Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) is on the rampage in London killing women left, right, and centre in order to collect their souls. The purpose behind these murderous deeds lies in the desires of Dr Jekyll who is currently the royal doctor to Queen Victoria. Hyde’s killing is in order to collect the souls of the dead and give them to an ill Queen Victoria in an effort to make her younger - young enough to satisfy Dr Jekyll who’s been lusting after the Queen ever since they met years ago.
After the massive reports of murder, the Vatican dispatch Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) to go after Hyde and bring him back alive. Their first encounter of one another manages to frame Van Helsing as the supposed murderer. This point is hit on in the live action film. So, finding it difficult to tackle Hyde alone, Van Helsing sends for Carl (David Wenham) to come and aid him in the task of stopping the monster. But the heroes have little time as Jekyll plans to marry the Queen and they’re going to have to get through zombie beefeaters and evil demons to stop him and Mr Hyde.
I have to admit, I am impressed with the production of the animation. They managed to bring in Hugh Jackman to voice Van Helsing along with Alun Armstrong, Robbie Coltrane, and David Wenham who all continue to play the characters they played in the live action movie. That’s a feat to match what Warner Brothers did with The Animatrix last year. However, when this was first announced by Universal to accompany Van Helsing’s release, I was highly sceptical that this was just another attempt to rake in the cash. To a point this is fairly true, however appearances can be deceiving.
What I’m about to say may shock some people; this animated adventure is better than the live action film. It sounds crazy but trust me, London Assignment has a better-constructed and overall more enjoyable story than Van Helsing. The animated story feels more tightly strung together than the big-screen monster melee. With the focus on just one villain, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, it feels more satisfying. This is an improvement and makes up for anyone seeing Van Helsing wishing more focus was on the Wolfman, Dracula, or Frankenstein.
To add to the decent story, London Assignment’s animation is extremely impressive. This type of animation could have been given a budget equal to an animated television series but not for this feature. It’s a high budget animated short and takes it as far as possible mixing in a few CGI moments as well. These are very noticeable with the fight scenes between Van Helsing and Hyde. Also, I get the feeling that the crew behind this film had watched anime before they started. If you needed any evidence of this then look at the train fight sequence; a big nod to Blood: The Last Vampire. Other anime such as Hellsing and Vampire Hunter D are also sources of inspiration whether it’s a fight sequence with zombie beefeaters to the animated character design of Van Helsing himself. Since I am a fan of Japanese animation, these small nods were a nice touch on the overall presentation.
What possibly could have been a truly cheesy attempt of cashing in on Van Helsing’s release at the cinemas, London Assignment goes against all the odds in being a well polished animation. This will appeal to anyone who loved the live action film and want to continue the story of Van Helsing.
Video and Sound
London Assignment comes in a non-anamorphic widescreen ratio of 1.85:1. Despite having the black bars on the top and bottom of the picture, the video quality for the half hour feature is well done to go along with the high quality animation. As it was initially made for a DVD release, the picture is perfect and there is hardly anything wrong with it.
For the sound presentation, there’s only a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on offer here. Sadly this doesn’t live up to the video quality, but it does make good use of all the speakers making London Assignment an enjoyable listen. If you don’t have a home entertainment system, you’re not missing out on much as the 5.1 mix just spreads the music and the atmospheric noises around the room. It could have been better but for an animated short like this, it does the job fine.
Released on DVD to coincide with the theatrical release of Van Helsing the extras here are designed to promote the live action film and the subsequent video game release. I find this quite upsetting because for an animated short, you would expect at least some sort of extra looking at the animation but, alas, it was not to be.
Van Helsing: Behind The Screams
It’s the good old fashion behind the scenes feature that graces late night television on ITV. Looking behind the scenes of Van Helsing, this feature is pretty standard and includes interviews with the principle cast ranging from Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing) to Will Kemp (The Wolfman) and the film crew. It’s hardly surprising that it is Stephen Sommers producing most of the information. This avoids getting too over the top like all behind the scenes features do by going somewhat in depth with the special effects and make up of the film. It gets mentioned and shown how they filmed character transformations, filmed action sequences, and made everyone use wirework. It’s your basic behind the scenes feature with a little bit extra so it is just decent. If the special effects weren’t talked about, this would be have been an ‘avoid at all costs’ feature.
The Making of the Van Helsing Game
To add to the promotional push of the film, we have the game! Hurrah! Well, no, not really because the game wasn’t that well received. However this doesn’t stop Universal talking about the game in this brief ten minute featurette that shows the designers talking about all the ‘cool’ things that this game offers. It also features another interview with Hugh Jackman who again provides his voice for Van Helsing in the game. That’s not annoying though; Jackman obviously shows some love for this character and will play him on any format medium. However, this is your standard behind the scenes, nothing major is shed light on and all we’re told is that the game is brilliant.
I haven’t bought it.
Van Helsing Game
As that wasn’t enough to get you to hopefully buy the game, they’ve added this one-minute trailer for people so they can see the game in action so they can buy it.
Again, I haven’t bought it.
Van Helsing: The London Assignment is a pleasant surprise as it was something different than I expected. It has a good story and excellent production values so anyone who loved Van Helsing will be more than satisfied with this animated prequel. It also has that nice anime touch that Japanese animation fans might find appealing. Sadly, the extras are all trying to make you see the film and buy the game with no light shed on the creation of the animation itself. But when this release is priced at just around ten pounds, you can’t really complain. Van Helsing: London Assignment is an enjoyable purchase.
Last updated: 25/06/2018 06:53:15