Look, no one likes The Mummy more than me, and I even have a soft spot for The Mummy Returns and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra. But Stephen Sommers, as a director, always seems to walk this line between a movie being really bad and really fun, and this one went over the line into bad.
Why? Well, I guess it's that every scene--literally every single scene--is an action scene, or at least has some gee-whiz CGI effect (which, naturally, look like crap). There's no ebb or flow; everything is always going at 110% ALL LOUD IN CAPS LOCK. It just gets numbing, especially since all the action is pretty much the same, and with all the CGI, it's not like you're even seeing real stunts. It's just a kid bashing action figures together.
Now compare to The Mummy, where for the first half of the movie, there are a lot of scenes which are about building the world, or charming the audience, or being funny, or romantic. It's like a roller coaster ride. Lots of different thrills. Van Helsing is like a roller coaster that starts at the top of a mountain and then just drops for two hours. No curves, no loops, just falling, falling, falling.
Another thing is that the characters in The Mummy all had fun, charming personalities. Rick was a square-jawed hero, sure, but there was also a bit of Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead; the story wasn't afraid to let him get goofy. Evelyn wasn't a "strong female character", she was nerdy and silly and competent and interesting. Even Jonathan was fun comic relief.
Now, Ardeth Bay is sort of the straight man to all this, he's kinda stoic and sexy, but that's alright in small doses. But Gabriel Van Helsing is like an entire movie of Ardeth Bay. He's serious and brooding and dark and so. Damn. Boring. And the love interest, uh, Beckinsale Von Corset, IS ALSO serious and brooding and driven and determined. And boring as hell. Frankenstein shows up, and he's also boring and brooding and sappy and ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. None of these people are any fun except for the Friar, played by David Wenham, and he's barely in the movie.
So to go back to the roller coaster metaphor, imagine riding a roller coaster with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Even if it's not the greatest roller coaster in the world, you're having fun because the company is so much fun to be around. Van Helsing is like riding the same roller coaster with Sean Penn.
Okay, I promised you pictures. Remember in The Mummy, how Imhotep was pretty sexy, but was still menacing and ominous and threatening? Well, they tried to do the same thing with Dracula, and...
Look at this motherfucker. He's got little emo bangs and an earrings and Jesus, I know Dracula has always been a bit gay, but this is the first time The Count has bottomed. Then there's Frankenstein.
I don't know why, but he looks like a Borg drone and talks like Sideshow Mel.
Oh, and then there's Igor. Remember how Igor was just a guy with a hunchback?
Now he's Skeletor.