Notable Actors: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Review: With all the problems this film had in its production (re-shoots, changing directors, score changes, and even a director talking about how messy production was while the film is still in theaters, to name a few), suffice it to say I was a little skeptical about the final product. The director they settled on was Joe Johnston, known mainly for children’s movies like Honey I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, The Pagemaster, and Jumanji. With no previous foray into horror, I questioned this choice even before I saw the movie. But he did take over with a bevy of complications, so I had to give him a little leeway in my opinions of the movie. The cast was stellar and the story was there, but the execution came across sloppy in the end. Along with a few questionable choices in film-making, The Wolfman takes the iconic horror creature and turns his film into nothing but an average to sub-par effort.
The film opens with Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro), being summoned back to his home in Blackmoor over the death of his brother. Lawrence is an accomplished theater actor and his troupe was in London so the trip was easy. He was alerted by his brother Ben’s fiancé Gwen (Blunt), and when back he learns that his brother’s murder is the third of its kind. It was determined that no man could commit the murders based on how gruesome the attacks were. Only a beast could do the damage done to the bodies. Lawrence also deals with many family problems like a distant father (Hopkins) and the untimely death of his mother. And now on top of all that he has to deal with the death of his brother. He vows not to leave the estate until his brother’s case is solved and sets out to find out clues that may lead to the circumstances of the death of his brother. While visiting gypsies one night on a full moon, the camp is attacked by the beast that killed the three people. While saving a child, Lawrence is bitten in the neck. He is taken back to the Talbot estate where he is cared for by Gwen and his father. After progressing at a slow pace, he miraculously is healed and back to normal one day. Coincidentally, Lawrence’s well-being happens at the same time the next full moon is about to appear in the sky. Yes, Lawrence is marked by the beast that has been terrorizing Blackmoor only to turn him into the next. Lawrence commits heinous acts whenever there is a full moon, and the rest of the town becomes suspicious of his condition. Because of the attacks, Scotland Yard’s best inspector Frank Abberline (Weaving) is sent to investigate and is hot on the trail of Lawrence, trying to stop him before he can turn into the beast again. It is up to Lawrence to not only deal with his family dilemmas, but now try to control the beast that is unleashed every full moon.
So where did this movie go wrong? I thought all the acting was fine. Anthony Hopkins was the shining beacon of hope for this film from the start and he nailed his character as Lawrence’s father. Del Toro fit his role well also, but it was hard to see his as Ben’s brother because the actor that portrayed Ben looked absolutely nothing like Benicio Del Toro (it’s the little things). But a question, why is it that in films where a brother dies and leaves a fiancé, she always falls directly in love with the other brother? Del Toro had to do nothing to seduce her; she immediately takes a fancy to him as soon as he arrives at the estate. Right after her husband dies none the less. There’s no explanation. Why? Hmm? To have the plot make more sense and give it more heart and a simple love interest instead of paying another actress? I feel like they just took the easy way out and took a route that entailed no explanation and we are just supposed to accept that Gwen is madly in love with Lawrence after only meeting him for a few days after her fiance has just recently passed away.
I will give The Wolfman credit for its action sequences. They were very interesting and visually well crafted. No shortage on gore here either, watching as Lawrence in wolf form is able to rip his victims limb from limb with ease. Any man who crosses his path you immediately feel sorry for. Another thing I liked visually was I feel like they really kept true to the original look of the Wolfman. Sure they CGIed him and beefed him up a lot more, basically the old Wolfman on steroids, but the similarities are definitely evident. It makes you feel like they were trying to keep true to the original black and white film that got the character started.
The movie manages to hold itself together, until the few end sequences where it completely falls apart. During the scenes where I was supposed to feel for Lawrence and his last encounter with his family trauma, I found myself laughing. At one point, Lawrence has words with his father and they get into a fight. Yes, the 73 year old actor fights the 43 Del Toro. And all he does is hit him with his cane, that somehow flings him around the room and causes unspeakable damage. From a 73 year old. This was the scene that is supposed to make me feel for Lawrence and his father in their family struggle, but instead I was dying in the theater. Totally unable to control myself. The rest of the film was clichéd, taking all the obvious plot turns and playing it safe. It wrapped everything up for you, but in a way where if it was a present you were getting it would be wrapped horribly in newspaper (not even the comics) and tied with some string. No bow, no wrapping paper, but its done right?
The one change I’m happy they didn’t go with was the score of The Wolfman. Danny Elfman’s more symphonic score kept a more Victorian feel to the movie and held the atmosphere together. He was originally slated to score the film, but was then optioned out for a more modern rock score from Paul Haslinger. Haslinger has done scores recently for such movies as Death Proof and Underworld. Thank god they decided the last minute to go back with Elfman’s score, because it just would have been one more problem if they went with Haslinger. They recently posted an excerpt of Haslinger’s score, which can be found over at slashfilm.com (a great source for up to date entertainment news). Haslinger’s score does not fit the feel of the movie at all, trying to keep the feel of a small town in the late 1800’s. Haslinger’s score was more meant for modern movies with adrenaline pumping action…like Death Proof. Good choice there, but I’d be curious to see what they re-wrote and re-shot to see if what they had could have been more acceptable than what they came out with.
Compare The Wolfman to a train barreling down the tracks, almost making it to its destination, only to be derailed with the end in sight. Full of clichés and a lack of direction, The Wolfman was a let down. Could it have been the many production problems? Johnston even admitted himself recently the movie suffers from indecision, going into the movie not knowing what was supposed to be accomplished. It’s not complete garbage, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to see it (if I were you that is). The film is disappointing in the fact that everything about the film should be much better than it was. The Wolfman is one of the most famous horror characters, and the cast was talented enough to deliver adequate enough performances to give the movie enough credibility. Unfortunately, neither aspect was good enough to carry the movie as it hurdles towards its inevitable demise. Like I said, it wasn’t the worst I’ve seen, it just wasn’t that good. With all the sequels today in Hollywood though, who knows. Maybe there can be a sequel to The Wolfman that goes into production with set goals and a straight focus. Maybe then, the Wolfman will get the credit he deserves.
Final Rating: 5.5 overused horror clichés out of 10