The Wolfman (2010)
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Joe Johnston’s new version of “The Wolfman” is gorgeous to look at. It’s foggy and atmospheric, and comes close to capturing the spooky visuals of Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” from a decade ago. The monsters are, thankfully, mostly done using practical effects and hairy makeup suits rather than CGI; as I have said before, I prefer the rubber monsters over the computer animated ones. The action scenes are swift and scary, and the violence is appropriately brutal; nothing is shied away from in the gore department.
It’s too bad, then, that “The Wolfman” is an intolerable mess that suffers from an incurable blandness and bad editing, making for a confusing, murky thrill-free thriller. I really wanted to like this movie, as I am a fan of monster movies in general, and Universal Monster movies in particular. But, despite some good monster fights and gorgeous visuals, “The Wolfman” falls flat and dull and lifelessly onto the audience. The visuals go a long way to keep us interested, and the talented cast gives weight and meaning to the otherwise silly dialogue, but it just ends up unraveling.
Ostensibly a prequel to the 1941 version of “The Wolf Man,” this new film takes place in the 1890s, amongst the Talbot family. Ben Talbot has been eviscerated near his ancient home in London, and his brother Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) returns home to attend the funeral. Lawrence is reluctant, as he has a bad relationship with his father (Anthony Hopkins, gamely gnawing scenery), and once spent time in a mental hospital. Lawrence is entreated to stay past the funeral when Ben’s widow (Emily Blunt) asks him to investigate Ben’s death. Ben, predictably, was mauled to death by a Wolf Man, and it’s not long before Lawrence faces said Wolf Man, and gets bitten himself. Full moons trigger wolfiness. There’s also a cop in this movie played by Hugo Weaving, who gives the role a lot of his energy.
There are twists in the plot, which I will not reveal, as well as a monster rampage through the streets of London, and a lot of murky killings in the woods. There is also a battle royale of sorts near the end which was way fun.
Overall, though, I left the theater kind of unmoved. From what I understand, “The Wolfman” traded directors before shooting began, which may have a lot to do with its unfocussed presentation, and sloppy editing.
There are only two or three great werewolf movies in the world. I patiently await the next one.