Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004)
Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Van Helsing: Behind The Screams
Featurette-The Making Of The Van Helsing Game
|Year Of Production||2004|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Sharon Bridgeman|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|RPI||$24.95||Music||John Van Tongeren|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes, Jekyll smokes a pipe|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Van Helsing himself.|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Okay, so it is a total marketing gimmick, but Universal has at least taken it reasonably seriously. All major characters recurring from the live action Van Helsing are voiced by the same actors, which means we have "our" Hugh Jackman and "our" David Wenham back together again as Van Helsing and Friar Carl, and the great Robbie Coltrane channelling Mike Meyers Fat B****** as Mr. Hyde. On top of that, they have used established Korean animation outfit Sunwoo Entertainment to produce the visuals, under the supervision of Kazuchika Kise, the man responsible for overseeing the animation on well respected anime titles Blood: The Last Vampire and Ghost In The Shell 2, with voice direction from Jack Fletcher, the director of anime-inspired TV series The Ninja Scrolls.
The story for The London Assignment is set in the days leading up to the start of the Van Helsing movie. A mysterious killer is stalking the streets of London, wrecking havoc, and causing mass hysteria. Over at the Vatican, the Knights of the Holy Orders have decided to take matters into their own hands, and dispatch their number one man Van Helsing to put a stop to the evil doings. Once in London, Van Helsing finds a tale of intrigue linking the huge and menacing Mr. Hyde to the mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll, and then all the way up to Queen Victoria herself. As far as stories go, it is a nice working of the Jekyll and Hyde tale in with that of Jack the Ripper, mixed about with a generous dash of magic and evil spirits, to come up with something that is actually quite interesting, at least if one can put aside their knowledge of the original stories on which it is based. Then again, as the live action Van Helsing pretty much threw out the traditional stories behind Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein, this re-telling is no more outlandish than those.
For the most part, this animated prequel actually works very well, and is an enjoyable way to spend another half-hour with characters already made familiar in the live-action movie. Hugh Jackman and Robbie Coltrane are great as the voices of Van Helsing and Mr. Hyde, while David Wenham yet again steals the entire feature as Van Helsing's trusty side-kick Friar Carl, getting almost all of the funny lines. The story is a rather clever re-imagining of the classic tales it is based on, and the viewing experience is almost as much fun as watching the live-action film itself. The only real problem, and it is really more of a nit-pick than anything else, is that there are some minor continuity errors between this animated prequel and the live action Van Helsing. While these do not damage the story of the animated prequel (they are very minor points, such as Van Helsing using the semi-automatic cross bow in the prequel despite supposedly seeing it for the first time in the live-action movie), and are probably indicative of when the prequel was written in comparison to the movie more than anything else, it would have been nice to do without them.
I am hardly an expert on animation, as the normal anime storylines are usually far too serious for my liking, but to my untrained eyes, the animation looks very nice here with the 2-D character animation melding very nicely with the 3-D physical models, but lacks a little fluidity. Movements are quite blocky, more like a fast slide-show, and that makes the action sequences a little less engaging than they may otherwise have been. In the end, this is probably worth a rent for fans of anime, as it will not be often that major stars like Hugh Jackman and Robbie Coltrane will lend their voices to this type of animation. For fans of Van Helsing, the live-action movie, this disc is a must-see, and will be well worth the rental dollars (purchases are probably best left to obsessive fans), as the included half-hour making of the live-action movie featurette makes this a great hour's worth of entertainment and information.
It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and as noted above, this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced. This is an almost unforgivable slip by Universal. Luckily the transfer they have provided is good enough to largely overcome the lack of enhancement, but this is a dangerous precedent to set.
The transfer is extremely sharp, with enough detail to make out every little nuance of the animation. There is no grain present at all (although according to the credits this was transferred to film before moving to video), and there is no low level noise. Shadow detail (such as it is in animated works) is excellent with the darker portions of the image remaining extremely clear.
Colours are rich and detailed, making the most of the Victorian setting for some rather Gothic looking combinations, but they are also bright and vibrant when necessary.
As with most animation, especially animation of this nature, this transfer does not get away completely without any aliasing, although fortunately it is kept to a minimum with only the short segment at 27:10 being particularly distracting.
The subtitles are word-for-word accurate, well paced, easy to read, and for once very attractively rendered.
There is only around an hour of content in total on this disc, so not surprisingly it is single layered, and therefore does not contain a layer change.
There is a single audio track on this disc - the original English dialogue presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384kbps).
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. Audio sync (as far as this is applicable to an animated feature with little effort given to matching lip movements) is spot on throughout the transfer and is never an issue.
The score, credited to John Van Tongeren, is relatively standard fare. It is workmanlike, keeping up the sound without doing anything outstanding.
Surround presence is reasonable without being spectacular. It is certainly better than would normally be expected from this type of release, delivering some atmospheric ambiance and even some directional surround during action sequences, but the surrounds do tend to fall silent on a frequent basis.
The subwoofer does a handy job backing up the score and on-screen action, and has plenty to do.
|Surround Channel Use|
The video is excellent, being crisp and clear, with well rendered colours and plenty of fine detail. Unfortunately it is not 16x9 enhanced.
The audio quality is very good. With reasonable surround presence and an engaging audio mix, it does more than just present the sound.
The extras only relate to other members of the Van Helsing franchise, but as the vast majority of the people who watch this disc will fall into that category, it doesn't really matter. They are not all that extensive, and are a little too marketing heavy to be must-see, but they certainly add value to the DVD release.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-555K, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||Rochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)|