The Wolfman (2010)
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Sir Anthony Hopkins
Directed By: Joe Johnston
Written By: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self
How can one not enjoy the old Universal monster movies? For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Universal Studios made a run of movies from the 1920s to the 1950s (with the 1930s being considered the “golden age”) of horror movies which featured the classic characters we all know and love. From Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster and Mummy, there is just something fascinating and larger than life about these films. Toward the end of the golden age of Universal monsters came The Wolfman, which featured Lon Chaney Jr, an heartbreaking story about a man who is bitten by a werewolf and it’s up to his own father to stop him. Unfortunately, that isn’t the movie in question. Today, we take a look at the 2010 Joe Johnston remake and sadly, it doesn’t live up to the high standards of the past.
The Wolfman follows Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro), a popular, albeit bad, actor from America who’s in London for a series of Shakespearean performances. After one such play, a young woman named Gwen (Blunt) comes to see him. See, his brother Ben (whom she’s engaged to) has gone missing and she would like Lawrence’s help in finding him. Of course, we already know what happened to poor Ben, but that’s neither here nor there. Being smart enough to know not to say no to a pretty face, Lawrence agrees to go help find his brother, even if it means facing his estranged father John (Hopkins).
It isn’t long after that Ben’s mangled body is found and Lawrence sets off to find the beast responsible for it (despite his father’s ever so subtle advice not to). While in a camp full of gypsies, a werewolf attacks the group, gruesomely killing about a dozen people and biting poor Lawrence. He’s nursed back to health by Gwen, but we all know what he is and what he’s about to do. Yes, Lawrence becomes a werewolf as well and goes on his own killing spree. Along the way, we have a very hurried romance with Gwen, a completely obvious twist to the story, and a werewolf vs werewolf fight…and that’s about it.
So, let’s start with the good. Emily Blunt does a fine job as Gwen (despite how the character is written). Hugo Weaving is awesome by default and his Scotland Yard detective hunting the werewolves is no different. Despite my irritation with anything based in Victorian England having a gray tone to it, the costumes and sets are all very good and nice to look at. I actually felt that the werewolf suit works very well here and is a nice homage to the original. There are also some fun, cheap scares and the killings are often laugh out loud funny spectacles (I do hope that was the point).
Now for the bad. Blunt and Weaving aside, the acting leaves much to be desired. Del Toro is actually very disappointing here. I don’t know if it was all the delays or the actual project itself, he just seems to be going through the motions. Did I mention he’s pretty much the only one in the movie that DONES’NT have an accent? Rather odd. The transformations are actually very hokey and silly looking. The first time Lawrence turns into a werewolf, we barely see anything at all. The second time (when he’s tied up in an asylum), we actually see much more. Unfortunately, it’s very fake looking.
The real fault lies within the direction and the story of the movie. The pacing is completely off and it drags beyond belief (Lawrence doesn’t turn into a werewolf until about the one hour mark; the movie is an hour and forty-five minutes long). While there are some jump-scares, there’s no suspense found in the movie and it just isn’t scary at all. The previously mentioned romance is completely rushed. Gwen finds out her fiance is dead and days later is in love with Lawrence with no qualms about it. Ben is more or less forgotten. The twist isn’t at all handled properly as, again, it was completely obvious (so much so, I was hoping it would be a red herring). As you can see, there isn’t enough good things going on to offset all the faltering you will see in The Wolfman.
Bottom Line: I can turn off my brain very well while watching a movie. I can overlook silly actions and plot holes provided the film is entertaining. Unfortunately for us, The Wolfman just isn’t very entertaining at all. It doesn’t know if it’s trying to be campy (the over the top gore) or serious (the overall tone of the movie), so we get a jumble that’s hard to make out. As a popcorn movie, I suppose it’s an inoffensive rental, but I was expecting so much more.
PS: A plea to Joe Johnston – please, please, please remember your work on The Rocketeer while you make Captain America. You do have it in you. Jurassic Park 3 and The Wolfman is enough ammo to give me doubts. You can do it, sir.