#312. Crossovers

Popular culture has created a lot of memorable characters over the years. Most of the time, these characters exist in their own, unique universes. However, every once in a while these universes are shown to be part of a larger, more complex universe. In combining these universes, the characters are allowed to cross over into the realms of other famous figures. Usually, these crossovers are possible because an overarching company owns the rights to the characters at large. From Marvel and DC’s respective cinematic universes to Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. video game series, fans love to see their favorite characters interacting together. Even the Hannah-Barbara universe (which gave us The Flintstones meet The Jetsons (1987)) knew this back in the day. This week’s two films look at some character crossovers.

Van HelsingVan Helsing
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

During the first golden age of cinema in the 1930’s, Universal found success in bringing some of the world’s monsters to life. All the famous Halloween staples like Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), and The Wolfman (1941) are part of the Universal Studios repertoire. It’s no wonder that these characters spawned numerous sequels and crossovers back in their time. Even today, films like Hotel Transylvania (2012) capitalize on their shared universe. Of course, while this animated film is more comedic, Universal brought out their monsters almost a decade earlier in the action-packed Van Helsing (2004), tying them all together via the titular character, who himself was based off the vampire hunter found in the Bram Stroker novel, Dracula. Of course, with the current popularity of cinematic universes, look for these monsters to be rebooted in the near future.

After Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) neutralized the threat of Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) in the bell tower of Notre-Dame Cathedral (likely also a reference to another famous hunchback), he is sent by the Vatican to Transylvania to kill Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Intel they have received from Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) informs them that Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) is collaborating with Dracula to bring a horde of dead vampire children back to life. Upon finding Frankenstein’s monster (Shuler Hensley), Van Helsing learns that the reason Dracula’s experiment failed was due to the missing monster. The werewolf (Will Kemp), one of Dracula’s lackeys, also learns this information and runs off to tell his master where the reanimated monster has been hiding. Unbeknownst to Dracula, the Vatican has just learned how to defeat the immortal vampire and lets Van Helsing know before their final showdown.

The Brothers GrimmThe Brothers Grimm
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

Much like Shakespeare in Love (1998) revealed the fictional inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, The Brothers Grimm (2005) delves into a potential origin story for the famed fairytale founders. Both the TV shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm have taken the numerous Grimm fairytales and combined them into their own shared universes, the former of which did so via their Disney interpretations. Stories like Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Rapunzel (via Tangled (2010)) all received their Disney treatment over the years. These films don’t even touch on Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rumpelstiltskin, all of which reside within the same Grimm fairytale universe. With these stories in mind, seeing their potential origins in The Brothers Grimm helps to give an idea of the brothers’ inspirations.

Con artists Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jakob (Heath Ledger) Grimm soon find themselves out of their depth when they discover that an actual supernatural threat has been causing the girls of a remote village to disappear. An immortal Queen (Monica Bellucci) has been stealing the girls’ youth via an enchanted mirror. While she cannot leave the tall tower where she lives, a werewolf huntsman (Tomáš Hanák) does her bidding. In helping to rid the huntsman of his werewolf curse, Will becomes entrapped by the Queen’s magic, leaving Jake to shatter the magic mirror and releasing the youthful energy trapped within it. Even with the Queen defeated, the girls of the village remain trapped in a state of slumber. It’s up to Jake to kiss the last of the twelve girls in order to wake them all up and break the last piece of the curse. With the adventure over, the brothers mull over the idea of writing down their adventures.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 conglomerations of characters

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#294. Haley Joel Osment

Have you ever noticed how some actors come in and out of relevance? Sometimes these actors use their success in one medium, like Television, to jump the gap to another medium, like movies. While I can’t say I’ve ever seen any Game of Thrones, I’ve seen plenty of the actors from it in a variety of different films. Even within the realm of cinema, an actor seems to be in almost everything for a couple of years, then fades into obscurity. Often, this is linked to receiving an Academy Award for acting, as they have now proven their merits as an actor, thus making them desirable for marketing purposes for other films. Sometimes this is due to a certain “look” an actor can provide, and once they change it (or grow out of it) they have trouble regaining their former glory. This week’s two films examine the former relevance of Haley Joel Osment.

Secondhand LionsSecondhand Lions
Year: 2003
Rating: PG
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

From 1994 to 2003, Haley Joel Osment was relevant in the realm of cinema. His first appearance on film as Forrest Gump Jr. in Forrest Gump (1994) gave him the springboard he needed to eventually star in other films. While his success as an actor came with The Sixth Sense (1999), he also had many notable performances, including the society-changing Trevor McKinney in Pay it Forward (2000). While Osment took two 3-year hiatuses, none of his recent films have captured that youthful charm that people recognized from his first decade of acting. Of course, perhaps his voice acting work, which he performed while in relevance as well as afterward, was merely his next medium. In fact, most people who have played any of the Kingdom Hearts video games will recognize his voice as that of the main character, Sora.

Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) finds himself abandoned by his mother when he arrives at the home of his great uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine). These brothers are leery of Walter, as they suspect he has been dumped on them to gain access to their rumored fortune. The crotchety old men eventually warm up to the teenager as he helps them acquire items to make their life a little more interesting. Due to their developing relationship, Walt learns the truth of his great uncles’ adventures might not be so far from the rumors’ claims. When his mother appears again, with a scoundrel boyfriend in tow, she tries to use Walter to gain access to the brothers’ fortune. However, an old lioness that Hub bought and was accidentally released into the cornfield comes to Walt’s rescue, thus solidifying Hub and Garth’s relationship with the boy as his guardians.

The Sixth SenseThe Sixth Sense
Year: 1999
Rating: PG-13
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

By now, we all know Haley Joel Osment’s most famous line from The Sixth Sense (1999), “I see dead people.” This line, along with his performance in the film, cemented him as one of the premier child actors of his time. In fact, his nomination for Best Supporting Actor only helped him to secure future film roles with big directors like Steven Spielberg, eventually appearing in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Of course, as is the fate of most child actors, puberty set in and his relevance changed. It’s a little weird to see an actor who used to be that baby-faced, token child in a film now with a beard and a couple extra pounds on their frame. Still, Osment has continued to work in cinema, even if the films he’s appearing in now aren’t nearly as notable or critically acclaimed as they once used to be.

The eponymous “Sixth Sense” of this film is held by none other than Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). He admits to be able to see the ghosts of dead people walking around as if they were alive. This admission is to Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis), a child psychologist who failed a former patient and was shot as a result. Cole uses his ability to help the ghosts attain a sense of closure with the world they left behind. With Dr. Crowe’s help, Cole reveals the true cause of the death of a young girl, thus saving the girl’s younger sister in the process. Despite the constant presence of ghosts in his life, Cole accepts the responsibility and begins to enjoy his life. After telling his mother of his ability, she is initially skeptical, but is convinced when he reveals details of her life and interactions with his dead grandmother. Meanwhile, Dr. Crowe comes to a shocking revelation of his own.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 heyday roles for Haley Joel Osment

Bacon #: 2 (Forrest Gump / Tom Hanks -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)