The Wolfman – A Review

The Wolfman is a film I have been interested in seeing for a long time, but not for entirely positive reasons. The Wolfman is a remake ofGeorge Waggner’s 1941 original The Wolf Man, and by all accounts was due to be released in cinemas in 2007. Then in February 2009. Then in November 2009. Finally being released this month. The scheduling conflicts were not the only problems for The Wolfman. The films original director, Mark Romanek, left only 4 weeks before the start of principal photography to be replaced by Joe Johnston. Johnston’s last film was 7 years ago. Add to this the need to film extensive reshoots due to gaping holes in the plot, all did not look good forThe Wolfman.

I was lucky enough to see some of the re-shoots as we were shooting some scenes for Harry Potter at Pinewood at the same time, and I thought the sets looked great. Needless to say, for all these reasons I was intrigued to see it and decided to be positive about the film. But with so many changes and distractions, could the film live up to it’s hype actually be any good? Well, for me, the answer is yes and no.

The film is a loose remake of the 1941, in which traveling actor Lawrence Talbot, Benicio Del Toro, returns to his family home after receiving word about his brother’s death. Mystery surrounds the murder, with talk of a bear or some kind of beast being the main suspect. Talbot decides to investigate himself, but is also attacked by the beast and subsequently transforms into a lycanthropic monster at the sight of a full moon, devouring local villagers. Rather than embrace his curse, he hates what he has becomes and once caught and taken to a London mental institution, he tries to figure out where the curse came from, and how he can change it. Once back in the countryside, he confronts his father played by Anthony Hopkins, and with the help of Gwen Conliffe played by Emily Blunt, he tries to confront his curse head on and take back his humanity.

Despite what you might have heard, The Wolfman is not a terrible movie. It was refreshing to see a horror film that has decided to take it roots from the classic horror films of old. The look and feel of the film is great. Being set in a quaint little village with huge meandering trees, grand old houses and weary villagers, one cannot help but think of films such as The Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein. Here, the sets and locations act as characters themselves. The last film I can think of that did this so well was Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.

The Special Effects in particular are another plus of the film. Everyone will always compare movie werewolf transformations to John Landis’ An American Warewolf in London(and rightly so) but Rick Baker’s wolf man effects have certainly pushed the genre forward. The transformation scenes certainly display the pain and agony that it must feel to take part in such a change. You can literally hear the bones cracking and see Benicio Del Toro’s body twist and contorts as his body structure changes. We see his human teeth pushed out of his mouth to be replaced by the teeth of the beast. You can really feel and believe the pain he is going through as he succumbs to the demon within. Director Joe Johnston provides an interesting touch by giving The Wolfman the options of running on two legs like a man, or acting like the beast it is by running like the wind on all fours. Although the transformations aren’t on screen long enough, nor if truth be told is the wolf, you cannot wait for the next full moon to see the beast again. And here in lies the films main problem.

Everything in between the wolfman transforming, prowling or killing, The Wolfman is just….well, just a little bit boring. It’s a werewolf film, so it is not like there is going to be any confusion or ambiguity in what is going to happen in the story, but everything else just feels rushed and slightly incoherent.

I can’t believe I am going to say this, but I believe the guiltiest party in this is Sir Anthony Hopkins. Who knows what direction he was given, but he is so lethargic in his performance that it feels like he is either supposed to be drunk or tired. He just meanders his way through his scenes like he doesn’t really want to be there. Like I said, maybe this was the directors intention to contrast his mannerisms from his human form to his lycan form, but I really doubt this was the case. The rest of the cast do as well as they can with the below par script. Benicio Del Toro is fully believable as The Wolfman as he has that crazy look in his eye before he even gets bitten. Emily blunt is great as the beautiful damsel but fails miserably to find any real connection with Del Toro, and Hugo Weaving does his best impression of Dick Van Dyke with an over the top cockney accent, as the suave Inspector Abberline. To be fair to him, he does have a cracking mustache.

If you take into consideration the sheer number of problems The Wolfman overcame just to make it to the screen, it has to be seen as a success. While there are many plusses to come out of the film, such as the wolfman effects, it ultimately feels like a mishmash of incoherent scenes that are missing that little something extra. And like the film itself, it ultimately feels like it could have done with just a little more bite. And yes, that was supposed to be a joke. I apologise in advance.

Categories: Film, Reviews


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