The Wolfman (2010) Reviewed

The Wolfman, Universal’s re-imagining of its own 1941 classic, is worthy of its heritage which isn’t saying much when you consider that the original (relative to heavy hitters like Dracula ad Frankenstein) wasn’t that hot to begin with. This is not to say that the original Wolf Man is bad. It’s a very functional monster movie that is most notable for its gothic atmospherics. It’s also relatively scare free and anchored to a slow-moving script. Most of the same can be said of director Joe Johnston’s version. In it, Benicio Del Toro is the doomed Lawrence Talbot, an American stage actor who has returned home to England upon receiving news from his willowy sister-in-law (Emily Blunt) that his brother Ben has been mysteriously killed. Until he can straighten things out he decides to indefinitely crash at his childhood home, an impressively realized piece of production-design real estate, which is still lorded over by his prickly ex-game hunter father (played with that special kind of scraggly hamminess only Sir Anthony Hopkins can provide). While investigating Ben’s evidently violent demise, Lawrence survives an attack by the same toothy creature that picked its teeth with Ben, which thusly curses him with the mark of the werewolf. (I’d like to mention that, as my movie-going companion pointed out, the speed at which he -and a few other characters- seems to readily comprehend Talbot’s fate is absurd.) Before long, the mauling death of townsfolk and other peripheral characters points in Talbot’s direction, and Scotland Yard’s Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) is on the case. While it takes far too long to get to the literal red meat, The Wolfman eventually delivers. There’s a solid 35-minute chunk somewhere in the middle of the movie where the planets seem to align with the CGI-rendered full moon on screen and it’s a pretty great time. There’s some authentic (though shortly sustained) suspense, one really solid werewolf fever dream/hallucination, a few nifty transformation sequences, and a surprising amount of gore. Del Toro is a commanding presence and his brooding despair is convincing and makes for an entertaining performance. I just wish the script supported him more with at least a little confusion about his circumstances. As I mentioned above, though he’s obviously not happy about it, he doesn’t really hesitate to latch on to the idea that he’s becoming a monster. Also, the story’s romance seems to develop somewhere off-screen; Blunt’s evident dedication to Del Toro seems hastily developed and doesn’t really make sense given the circumstances. What’s worse somewhere on the way to a devastatingly dramatic, bleakly beautiful resolution, Wolfman kinda gives up and attempts to deliver an action-packed finale instead and that decision completely absorbs all the dismal beauty of what’s come before. The pseudo-twist ending that comes with the pyrotechnics doesn’t trouble me much — though a departure from the plotting of the Lon Chaney version, it’s a well-earned twist that most of the story’s drama has propped itself up on anyway. In fact, I actually like the wolf “curse” origin story they thought up; it’s coherent and plausible in a monster-movie sorta’ way. What I don’t like (SPOILER ALERT…but a spoiler that really wouldn’t spoil your Wolfman experience) is a slap-dash VanHelsing-meets-John Woo fight scene, a predictable final moment, and a “wolfed out” Anthony Hopkins reminding me of James Hampton as Michael J. Fox’s dad in Teen Wolf. **1/2

NOT Anthony Hopkins in "Wolfman"

~ by Number5ive on February 23, 2010.

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