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Wolfman, The (2010)

The Wolfman (2010) (click for larger image)Reviewed by Sean Decker

Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving

Directed by Joe Johnston


Universal Pictures’ 2010 version of The Wolfman as directed by Joe Johnston (and let me be clear, this man made 1991’s The Rocketeer, which in my estimation makes him a bit of a directorial genius) is an unpredictable mutt. At times it is a visually sumptuous, updated love letter to the classic film which inspired it; at others it seems a muddled mess, as if ten cooks replaced one during the baking of a blood pie and attempted to swap out a few of its key ingredients during the process.

Benicio Del Toro portrays in this redux Lawrence Talbot (originally depicted by Lon Chaney, Jr., in 1941’s original The Wolf Man), an actor called home to his ancestral estate of Blackmoor, England, on the news of his brother’s disappearance. Lawrence’s familial reunion upon his arrival does little to allay his concern, as his icy father (Anthony Hopkins) – the two share an obviously fractured relationship, stemming from Lawrence’s witnessing of his mother’s suicide in his father’s arms years prior – informs him that the ravaged body of his brother has since been found. Throw into that mix Lawrence’s deceased sibling’s distraught fiancée (Emily Blunt), superstitious villagers, a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector who recently failed to stem the Ripper murders in London (Hugo Weaving), and Lawrence’s own dogged thirst for the truth; and we’ve got a Gothic powder keg waiting to go off.

The Wolfman (2010) (click for larger image)The problem here with the cinematic realization of Kevin Andrew Walker and David Self’s script is that many of these subplots seem lost in the shuffle, with narrative threads introduced failingly or not at all, and certainly not explored to the depths of psyche which they seem intent to reach for. With seventeen minutes of excised footage that are apparently intended to be re-inserted into the first act of the film for the eventual DVD release, these problems may be solved.

The theatrical cut, however, seems harried, as if it can’t wait to get to the first creature transformation, and in doing so (the entire flick moves at a breakneck pace) does itself a disservice, as the audience is challenged to find an emotional connection with The Wolfman’s protagonists and antagonists alike. (Note: The production’s storied past, which includes a 13th hour director replacement, rewrites, re-shoots, re-edits, and audience and studio notes, is most likely to blame.)

In an effort to be not too “gloom and doom”, I couldn’t help but to adore Del Toro’s portrayal of Lawrence Talbot, in makeup and without. The actor is a self-professed fan of the original film, and his haunting homage to and portrayal of the cursed Talbot resonates. Shelly Johnson’s cinematography, coupled with the rich production design of Rick Heinrichs, too, steep the proceedings in an atmosphere loyal to its source material. And while this scribe found a good part of the CGI on-hand to be rather distracting (an “old school” transformative process would have been most likely appreciated given the material’s pedigree and the FX man hired), the pure ecstasy felt when Rick Baker’s practically realized wolfman appears onscreen in glorious and blood-spattered color far outweighs the former. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, and Baker lovingly recreates the original Jack Pierce design, while imbuing it with an updated ferocity that makes the creature a force to reckon with, as evidenced by the limbs that fly with often and wild abandon.

Is it a perfect film? In this writer’s opinion the answer would sadly be “no”, but undoubtedly Johnston’s The Wolfman will find a place on my shelf upon its home release to curl up with its alpha brother (George Waggner’s original) in preparation for an occasional howling double-feature.

3 out of 5

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Sean Decker

29 Comments

  1. I have always been a huge fan of The Wolfman, and when I saw it as a little girl I was terrified! Now I watch all the time lol, but when I saw the official trailer to the new Wolfman, I couldn’t wait for 2010 to come because I was just so excited for the movie!
    I finally saw the movie last week, and I absolutely loved it! What I found very smart was how there’s more of a bigger story to it than the original. However, the movie kept me on edge the whole time and I want to see it again. Benicio Del Toro was absolutely incredible along with Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt.

      • And someone actually replies to the article with: “Technically, The Wolfman didn’t completely rip off Twilight.” These Meyer readers are complete fucking morons!

        • Wow. That was fucking hilarious. It’s such a pathetic argument it’s not even worth dissecting or ripping apart. Thanks for the laugh, Terminal.

          • No prob.

            Damn Universal should stop taking their material from Stephanie Meyer.

          • You ever hear of the Zombi people from Haiti? She should do something like that. I bet it’d make a great premise.

    • Holy crap! Just when you think people can’t get stupider they somehow manage it. Ubelievable.

      On the other hand the average Twilight fan is likely 7 and hasn’t had a chance to read or see anything else.

      When she’s a bit older she might think back to this and realize: “Maybe I was wrong about that letter… maybe I shouldn’t have been stalking Taylor Lautner for the past 8 years… maybe the asylum cafe will be serving rice pudding.”

  2. I fully expected to hate it, but I enjoyed it. I would love to have been able to see Joe Johnston’s un-fucked-with vision, because it feels like he was on the right track to a really nice homage to the Universal gothic monster movies from the 40’s. It does have flaws, but it could have turned out so much worse. The lack of lengthy action setpieces is thrillingly refreshing.

  3. The more I think about it, the less I like The Wolf Man Remake. It just completley misses the mark as a Wolf Man film; no atmosphere, no tragedy, very little Maleva, very little of the Silver Tip Cane, and WAY too much of the other characters. I still think it was fun, but it’s heavily flawed.

  4. Im definitely checkin this one out. I wonder if they will actually make one of the monster movies, like Frankenstein, according to the book, that would be good.

  5. Hey I have already seen it twice now the first time I saw it alone and liked but it felt messy. I gave it 31/2 stars out of 5. the 2nd time I saw it with my dad and realize why I love the old Universal Classic films, we both agreed this needed to be a longer film. To help resolve a few things as it stands now its an easy 4 out of 5. It can be better though.

  6. Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ, this fucking film rocked! Give me the sequel, and give me new Frankenstein and Dracula as of right now. I want more monster movies!!!

  7. I was bored to tears. Soulless committee filmmaking.

    If all you want it gore, stay home and throw in an 80’s werewolf movie. At least you’ll see real transformation sequences.

    • Sean does say “as evidenced by the limbs that fly with often and wild abandon.”

      Not sure if that means a lot of gore, but it sounds like there’s ample violence, and after all it is rated R!

          • And suddenly your unwavering love for Rob Zombie’s Halloween begins to make perfect sense. :)

          • Listen, If Wolfman were a lady, you would not kick her out of bed for eating crackers. Instead you would have her hang around to sip the hooch after licking the cooch (translation-It’s sweet)! Now I want Frankenstein and Dracula!

  8. Del Toro was never in the wolf man makeup, all the wolf man suit stuff was done by Spencer Wilding, which takes away some of the magic of the movie since Lon Chaney was the Wolf Man, Del Toro will not be.

  9. I caught this at a sneak preview on Tuesday night and was pleasantly surprised since I was expecting a complete disaster. This review hit it right on the money as far as I’m concerned; the art direction and Del Toro’s performance are excellent, but the chemistry between him and Emily Blunt is non-existent and the script is obviously missing sections that would’ve resolved some plotlines. I also found the ending to be very anticlimactic but oh well.

    I did think that some of the transformation sequences, while done with CGI, were still much better than Underworld or American Werewolf in Paris’s CGI sequences. Nothing will beat the old latex & prosthetics, though.

  10. I’ll find my way into a theater seat for this one. I’m too much of a diehard Wolfman, AWIL, and lycanthopy nut not to go. I think it will be worth it just to see Rick Baker’s work on another werewolf on the big screen inspite of the cgi they added into the movie.

  11. Is it me or are the reviews for this surprisingly consistent? No highs, no lows. Still, sounding a lot better than the absolute disaster I was afraid it was going to be.

  12. Gotta be better than vampires that “sparkle” and wolf guys who run around WA state with no shirts on! I’ll be seeing this one over the weekend.

  13. I feared this movie might be not good. I’ve been having high hopes for it since people first started talking about it. The trailer came out and a few things were bugging me. Like the CGI transformation when you have Rick Baker doing make up, and the fact that they have the wolfman running along rooftops (which seems to have become a trendy thing with monsters these days, running through trees or rooftops, where did this trend start?). Another thing that bothered me a little is I heard there was going to be gore in it? I have no problem with gore whatsoever, but the original never needed gore. I know this is a remake, and we live in the year 2010 but I don’t think that is enough to warrant gore in a movie that in my opinion, probably doesn’t need it. But the big red flag for me was the rewrites, re-shoots and re-edits as mentioned above in the review. I can only hope I’m wrong.

  14. I intend to see this anyway. I’m prepared for a basically mediocre experience, but I love the original so much I want to see if the remake does it justice.

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