The Wolfman takes a bite out of the 1941 classic. But it’s suppose to. Here’s my review I wrote for OpenBookSociety.
by Rose Elle
Synopsis: In 1891, in Blackmoor, England, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to his father’s estate after his brother Ben’s disappearance and subsequent brutal death. While trying to hunt down his brother’s murderer, Lawrence is bitten by a werewolf. His transformation leads to the truth behind many family secrets and brings the townsfolk down upon him.
Review: Directed by Joe Johnston (who was the visual arts director of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars and Hildago), The Wolfman opens like a novel would; hooking you in on the first page, revealing a mere glimpse of a creature that strikes its prey, with a gored body and facial slashes that ends in a killing. The imagery invites you in further with its rolling English countryside, awash in pallor and ever present fog. (They must have spent a fortune on fog machines.) The film is evocative of a horror fairy tale, as there is no hint of present day stylization, like Underworld. The time period is captured remarkably.
Once Benicio’s character gets bitten, things start moving along quickly. Scenes are constantly changing from one thing to the next, but not in a disorganized way. It doesn’t need to have lengthy scenes dripping with incessant dialogue; it’s not that type of movie.
There was much talk about the re-shoots for the film. In particular del Toro’s movements in wolf form. The director wanted del Toro on all fours in particular scenes. After seeing the film I understand why. Having him constantly upright goes against the nature of being a wolf. Sure he’s part man, but the instances when he does run on all fours, makes it much more believable, (in a movie about werewolves). The CGI body transformation is smooth, even and realistic. Bones extending in spurts, in a disjointed fashion that makes one cringe, and quick, contorted facial metamorphosis that is show in just the right amount of stages. But that’s where it ends and it’s a good thing. Paying homage to the original, facial makeup was used extensively, rather than having it be completely computer generated.
As for some other characters, someone in the Digital Arts Department was a little Lord of the Rings happy. The name Sméagol comes to mind. And speaking of LOTR’s, let’s talk about Hugo Weaving, who plays the detective from Scotland Yard. He sounds very much like another character he played in another film, named Agent Smith. Maybe playing an elf in LOTR’s, made his inflections not as apparent, but I swear ever time he opened his mouth to speak in this film, I thought he was talking to Neo. It was quite distracting.
Benicio del Toro doesn’t talk a whole hell of a lot. It all shows on his face. His face is perfect for all the contemplative brooding and hooded stares he had to make. That and all his howling.
Emily Blunt, who portrayed Ben’s fiancé Gwen, acted exactly how a lady would in the 1800’s. Soft spoken, serviant, and a bit meek. So no grandiose performance there. She was like drapes; she just hung around a lot. Anthony Hopkins who plays Lawrence’s reclusive father, eventually brought out his inner Hannibal Lecter when his character turns deviant. Aside from this, Wolfman is more visually driven than character based. Mere snippets of character storylines are shown, just enough to help the film along. It leaves you wishing for more, because what is shown is intriguing, but no one wants to sit through a three-hour movie.
If you go to watch The Wolfman for an absolute horror fest you will be disappointed. You will see blood, violence and torn flesh, for this is not chaste 1941, we need something to entertain us, but this version is more classic horror than campy.
I was not disappointed at all. Did it wow me to death? No. It delivered what it said it would. A remake of a classic. End of story.
Rating: 8/10 stars
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: Joe Johnston