If ever there was a film that I wanted to love, it is perhaps this one. And what amazing possibilities there are for a remake of The Wolfman, yes? In this time of incredible practical effects and improving CGI, this is a great opportunity to show those off while creating a moody, atmospheric horror film worthy of the original. Alas, the problem with this telling of The Wolfman isn’t the effects at all. In fact, they are quite good. They are done by the master Rick Baker, after all. It’s the script and the pacing that have this film going to the dogs.
The story is much the same as the original: Lawrence Talbot, played by an appropriately brooding and sad Benecio Del Toro, is called home from America, where he has been living as an actor, raised by his aunt after seeing his mother dead in his father’s arms, at the behest of his brother’s fiance’. His brother has disappeared and Lawrence returns to his family home in the beautifully gothic Blackmoor, England. Upon arriving, he finds his brother is dead, and he insists on discovering how and why. What he finds is a terrible secret and a destiny full of teeth, claws, and more than a little five o’clock shadow.
My first thought was that Benecio Del Toro was going to be perfect in the role of Lawrence Talbot because like Lon Chaney, Jr., he has a sort of dark sadness about him, yet with this brooding look in his eyes that is slightly dangerous. Unfortunately, Del Toro offers very little else emotionally throughout the film. He’s pretty much one note. Emily Blunt does just fine as Gwen, Lawrence’s brother’s fiance’ with whom he begins to have feelings. Hugo Weaving stars as the Scotland Yard inspector that comes investigating the murders that are taking place. He does a fine job, as I would expect, in applying a firm sense of morality to the proceedings. Anthony Hopkins does what he does as Sir John Talbot, Lawrence’s generally emotionally distant father. Ok, frankly, he seems a little scene-chewing. And the back story between he and Lawrence is somewhat unnecessary. Of course that is part of the new rewrites from the original. I wish people would stop trying to fix what ain’t broke.
There is a sense that they wanted to make something moody and gothic, but added some contemporary stylings as well. There is a fair amount of gore in this, maybe a little too much, simply because it becomes the most energy you feel in the film. It’s not sure if it wants to be a blood and guts horror, or a suspenseful, atmospheric one. I wished it would make up its’ mind. Oh wait, I mean I wish the filmmakers would have made up their minds. How many cooks in this kitchen, I wonder? At least Rick Baker’s effects are great. The only CG is in the transformation sequences and they are cool. The rest is all practical make-up and the wolfman is genuinely frightening.
This movie moves along quickly, TOO quickly, for us to really get to connect and feel anything. Because of this, the filmmakers never allow the film time and space to breathe and establish the beautifully designed world that they have created, let alone allow anyone to be immersed in it.
It’s like fast food eaten quickly rather than a sumptuous meal eaten patiently so to savor all its flavors.
This is directed by Joe Johnston, who directed The Rocketeer, and Hidalgo, both of which I rather liked, but he is also responsible for Jurassic Park III, and something called, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Spring Break Adventure. Yeah. And I think much of what isn’t right here is on him, and the editing and the occasionally lame dialogue. There are stores, of course, of this production having many problems along the way, including that Joe Johnston was brought in just prior to shooting as the original director left in a cloud of mystery more compelling than any this film offers. So, perhaps the production should have been scrapped from the get go, or at least postponed. But then, that would have cost money and we all know studios don’t like to waste that, even if it means making a better film.
This felt like a movie with potential that suffered from too many production problems and got ruined. It’s a shame, really. I say wait to rent this one.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, on a roll of horror film disappointment.