Possibly the first big budget release of 2010, The Wolfman was high on my “most anticipated of the year” list. Sadly, this is another one of those “lets put all the good stuff in the trailer!”. Yeah, I’m talking to you too Paranormal Activity…
But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the trailer was impressive. The posters oozed of atmosphere, with the moon being the focal lighting source. The main cast is also high profile; Benico Del Toro has starred in greats such as The Usual Suspects, Sin City and Snatch. Anthony Hopkins is a certified legend, and Emily Blunt is quickly making a name for herself by starring in independent hits such as Sunshine Cleaning and Dan In Real Life. Regardless of what it has got, it still lacks a lot.
Being a remake of The Wolfman released in 1941, originality isn’t key here. Set in 1891, the story follows theatre performer Laurence Talbot (Del Toro) as he returns to his ancestral home after he hears about the death of his brother, Ben. His father, Sir John Talbot (played excellently, as expected, by Hopkins) gives him Bens belongings; one of which is a medallion. He is told that it came from a nearby gypsy camp, and Laurence travels there. Whilst at the camp, a werewolf attacks the residents and kills or maims the majority. Laurence grabs a gun and chases after it, only to be attacked himself. He lives, but has a serious wound.
He is taken back to his home, where is cared for by Ben’s fiancée, Gwen (Blunt). After being close to death, Laurence seems to make a miraculous recovery, and the scar heals over. But all is not well, as he discovers that he bears the mark of the beast and will transform into a werewolf at every full moon.
As I said, you’ve probably heard the story in some form or another. Before this, the most memorable werewolf movie was An American Werewolf in London, released over 20 years ago. And to be honest, The Wolfman is literally the same movie… except set in Victorian London rather than the one we all know.
The main flaw I noticed with this movie is the pacing. Scenes of dialogue and story will be followed by a quick burst of action, only to slow right down again; think of it as a heart monitor and you get the idea. Trouble is, the action scenes do not last long enough to balance out the drawn out dialogue. But when the action arrives, it is intense. The amount of gore here surprised me; I was expecting shots of the victims expressions as we heard the Wolfman tear through them. But no; the violence is about as subtle as a steam train ploughing through a library. Blood, guts, vital organs, dismemberment, be-headings and deep cuts all feature here; but the “face slash” seemed to be a personal favourite of Ol’ Wolfy.
Speaking of the visual effects, the transformation of Laurence into The Wolfman was always going to be important. We needed to feel his pain as he agonisingly became this beast. And it juustt about succeeds. The reason why I don’t think it had the full effect is because his transformation relies too much on CGI. Have you ever seen the transformation in An American Werewolf in London? Absolutely incredible, and no CGI. Which is why I found it odd that the wolfman himself was (for the main part) not computer generated. Why have the transformation done by computers but not the beast itself?
I can’t really say anything bad about the effects though. They are well realised, and don’t take too much away from the real aspects of the production.
What about The Wolfman himself, Mr. Del Toro? He almost ruins it. Seriously, his performance is pretty darn shoddy. He has one facial expression that he substitutes for “acting”. I’m not quite sure what that expression is (and neither is he, judging from his face) but the character of Laurence suffers greatly from Del Toro’s emotional distance. I know I partly blamed the CGI for the transformation not being as good as the one in AAWIL, but it doesn’t help that the actor playing him has less emotion than a fountain pen.
Apart from Hopkins, there is one other character/actor that the film would suffer greatly from if they weren’t present, and that is Hugo Weaving as Lemmy from Motorhead (or “The Inspector” as he’s listed as in the credits). He even makes Del Toro look good when they share scenes. Finally, Blunt is satisfactory as Gwen, but the love story between Laurence and her is so forced and artificial, I really didn’t care for it. One minute she is mourning the loss of her fiancée, the next she is romantically linked with Laurence, being the love of his life. If there was a decent reason as to why they got close, then it would have been acceptable. But the only thing close to an explanation is that she cared for him when he was incapable of movement. Hmm.
I genuinely looked forward to The Wolfman for months. The gothic and eerie nature of it looked intriguing, and I hoped it could be a return to the classic horror of yesteryear. After all, they had the material already written. Unfortunately, The Wolfman will go down as another average February picture that just wasn’t good enough for a summer release.