US Release Date: 02-12-2010
Directed by: Joe Johnston
- Benicio Del Toro, as
- Lawrence Talbot
- Anthony Hopkins, as
- Sir John Talbot
- Emily Blunt, as
- Gwen Conliffe
- Hugo Weaving, as
- Geraldine Chaplin, as
- Art Malik as
Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman.
The Wolfman is a great old fashioned Hollywood horror film. Other than the excessive gore, and additional action sequences, this could have been a colorized version of the 1941 film. In fact, this version is based on that screenplay.
Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, the estranged son of a British nobleman. After his brother vanishes, he returns to his fog covered family estate, at his brother's fiance's request. Lawrence enters his childhood home and, we the audience enter into a drab, depressing setting that reeks of secrets and mystery. The mansion is large, dark and unkept. The kind of place you know holds deceit and misery. It is immediately clear that Lawrence and his father, Sir John, have an uncomfortable history. "Lo and behold, the prodigal son returns." They delicately move about each other showing little warmth. The only brightness Lawrence finds is Gwen, his brother's fiancé.
His brother's body is soon found. Sir John bluntly tells Lawrence, "Your brother's body was found in a ditch. He'd been torn to pieces." Tales of a beast spread fast. Upon investigating at a gypsy camp, the beast shows up and attacks at random, killing many. The only bitten survivor is Lawrence. He lays in the estate for days unconscious, being tended to by Gwen. Who sees him back to good health. Then comes the next full moon...
Secrets get revealed and passions ignited. Wolfman fights Wolfman, and the body count soars. The movie spares no expensive at throwing blood and body parts around. I liked the jump out of your seat scenes. I knew they were coming, but they still got me, early on at least. They seem to over do it a bit later on. The scene where the Wolfman corners Gwen by the waterfall is perfect. It could have ended any number of ways. I found myself caught up in the fear and tension of the moment.
The Wolfman is pretty much a four actor play. Anthony Hopkins brings his usual gravitas to the role of the suspect father. His voice has given him a long and lustrous career. I bet you can imagine him saying, "You've done terrible things..." At first I was puzzled by the casting of Del Toro as a British nobleman, until it was explained that his mother was Spanish. I enjoyed Blunt as the comic relief in The Devil Wears Prada, and here proves capable at subdued drama. Hugo Weaving is the last character of note as the man out to get the beast. Like Hopkins, his voice is serving him well. I always remember him from The Matrix calling Neo, "Mr Anderson."
Call me old fashioned all you want, but I like these old movie monsters. The Wolfman, Mummy and Dracula have history and depth in ways that modern movie maniacs, like Jason, Mike Meyers and Freddy Kruger do not. Modern monsters are all sadistic killers who love the slaughter, and have little to no rationale. The old fashioned monsters were tortured souls killing out of urges they could not control. Those monsters had character.
Anthony Hopkins in The Wolfman.
Werewolves have never been as popular as vampires. The reasons seem obvious. Vampires can be erotic, seductive and alluring, but Werewolves are hairy, brutal, keep wetting on the carpet and humping the furniture. You can dream of being a vampire, but who wants to be a werewolf?
There are some good things about this movie, but you seem more enamored of it than I, Eric. It's a bit gloomy and slow paced. The entire film is totally devoid of humor. Not that it should be a comedy, but just the smallest glimmer of light into this fog bound world might have helped. This might be a faithful reproduction of the original film, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more updating.
The one thing this movie certainly has is atmosphere. The fog, the moors and the gothic mansion all work toward creating a dark mood that permeates the film. It's just that it's so dark and so heavy that it's almost too much.
You certainly can't fault the cast. I particularly enjoyed Hopkins as the patriarch. His is the only character who even hints at having a good time. Del Toro and Blunt are good, but I never really bought the romance between them. They share very little chemistry and that weakens the ending considerably.
My favorite moments were the action scenes. They certainly don't hold back on the gore when the wolfman goes on a rampage. While on the crowded London streets and the rooftops, in the movie's best scene, he rips right and left with his claws and the blood and entrails fly in every direction.
The wolfman definitely has more depth and history than the hack-and-slash killers of more recent horror films. It is also filmed with more deliberation and artistry. With just a slightly faster paced and lighter tone it could also have been more entertaining.
Talk about a hangover!
I agree with you Eric. I too enjoyed this reworking of a truly classic horror movie. To be fair though, while it is based on Curt Siodmak’s 1941 screenplay for The Wolf Man, this Wolfman makes a few changes (besides the title). One big difference has to do with the character of the father (played by the great Claude Rains in the black & white version). It does faithfully open with the famous line that goes, "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
I often lament the state of modern cinema. For all the technological advances in terms of what can realistically be shown on the screen we have lost an equal amount in terms of style and craft. The Wolfman, along with the recent Sherlock Holmes reboot, have given me new hope for modern movies. They each achieve the rare feat of retaining all the best qualities of classic moviemaking while adding just the right amount of today’s CGI magic. Too many modern action scenes are so over-the-top as to become completely cartoonish. In these two movies the CGI effects blend in seamlessly with the rest of the story.
Another interesting similarity between The Wolfman and Sherlock Holmes is that both take place in Victorian England in the same year, 1891. I can’t resist, therefore, mentioning an anachronism in The Wolfman. Tower Bridge is shown as already in use here (it didn’t open until 1894), whereas Sherlock Holmes got it right by showing the bridge under construction.
Scott, you are a bit harsh on this movie. It is properly gloomy and not at all slow-paced. Not counting the end credits it runs only 95 minutes. I easily bought the romance between Lawrence and Gwen. It is portrayed as a relationship would have been at that time and place. I hate it when filmmakers have period characters behave socially like modern people. I do agree with you about the Wolfman’s rampage through the streets of London. Easily the best werewolf sequence ever!
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (2010)