Eric Heisserer's career is definitely one to watch; with critically acclaimed horrors like Lights Out behind him, he's gone on to really capture Hollywood's attention with last year's classic sci-fi Arrival. Next on his list, though, is Van Helsing; a script he's working on alongside Jon Spaihts (Passengers). That film is set to become part of the developing Universal Monster Universe, to be launched by this year's The Mummy.
With Heisserer doing the circuit right now for the DVD / Blu-Ray release of Arrival, it's no surprise that he's getting asked quite a few questions about Van Helsing. In one conversation with Collider, Heisserer has revealed an intriguing — and rather countercultural —detail.
Van Helsing Will Be No Superhero
Superheroes are all the rage right now, and it would surely be tempting for Universal to turn Van Helsing into their version of a supernatural superhero. There's precedent; since he was created by Bram Stoker in his 1897 novel Dracula, Van Helsing has definitely become larger than life. He's been reinvented in countless mediums - from novels to movies to comics - and every time his myth has grown.
That's not the direction Heisserer is wanting to take, though.
"I can talk about my emotional state of what I’ve been passionate about or sometimes frustrated by are the number of films where we find an extraordinary character with superhuman abilities that becomes a hero to solve a problem that a normal person cannot solve. And I was eager to try and buck that trend and showcase someone who had no extraordinary powers, just resourcefulness and will and kind of a stubbornness who’s able to tackle some of these bigger problems."
In this film, then, Van Helsing won't be a superhero. Instead, he'll be an ordinary man thrust into a supernatural world of monsters and madmen, struggling to deal with the insanity of vampires and werewolves. Rather than possessing preternatural abilities himself, he'll simply be an ordinary guy — albeit a man with a depth of resourcefulness and willpower.
Why Does This Matter?
As Heisserer observes, this is important. I love superheroes as much as anybody else (probably more than most, as a quick check of all the articles I write about them will probably indicate), but even I'm not convinced the current glut of superhero movies and TV shows is sending a positive message.
Heisserer points out:
"I don’t like the idea that we’re infusing our public and our pop culture with the idea that only super people can solve the world’s problems. I like the idea of the everyday hero stepping up to the plate and getting things fixed."
In the worlds of superheroes, mere mortals stand by and watch as the gods go to war. To make a difference, you have to be an alien illegal immigrant, a millionaire with a bat obsession, a mutant, or a super-soldier. Even Hawkeye and Black Widow are top S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, trained to be the best of the best.
The overall message is a very negative one; only a few special people can really change the world. In contrast, Heisserer wants Van Helsing to be a true hero — an ordinary man who steps up to the challenge. In a world where Dracula is real, and where the curse of the Mummy is the foundation of everything we're going to see, he wants us to realize that ordinary people matter too. In other words, Heisserer doesn't want to create another superhero; he wants to give us a true hero instead.
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Personally, I think Heisserer is sounding out a very valuable warning about our culture's current superhero obsession. If he's right, there may well be something quite unhealthy about it; a desire to step back and surrender, refusing to believe that we can make a difference in the world that we live in. Van Helsing, however, sounds to be a perfect response to this.
Do you think Eric Heisserer has a point?
(Source: Collider; Poll Image Credit: Syfy)