Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Wolfman


Review by Patrick Hodges

There’s nothing wrong with remaking a classic movie, but there are certain provisos that come into place if you do.  And if the classic movie that you are remaking is a horror movie, this is especially true.  It needs to capture the essence of the original, be well-acted, well-told, and well-shot.  The 2010 version of The Wolfman, revisiting the story first told in 1941 with the immortal Lon Chaney Jr., mostly fails on every count.  What makes this even more disappointing is the quality of the cast of this version, which includes two Oscar winners and an up-and-coming young actress (not to mention one of my favorite actors in the last ten years). 

Traffic star Benecio Del Toro is badly miscast as Lawrence Talbot, a stage actor in 1891 who returns to his ancestral home in England, a crumbling mansion that holds nothing but bad memories for him since the violent death of his mother.  He reunites with his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), who tells him that his brother Ben has been savagely murdered, and Lawrence vows to find out who is responsible.

During a visit to a nearby gypsy camp, Lawrence is bitten by a dark, vicious creature, and you can pretty much guess what that means:  from then on, when the moon is full, he himself transforms into a werewolf, a hairy, rapacious monster that kills anyone that stands in his way.  Despite the ministrations of Ben’s fiancée Gwen (Emily Blunt), Lawrence must face what he had become alone.

Where do I begin?  The acting was incredibly blah, for one.  Del Toro sleepwalks through the entire movie, and Hopkins does pretty much the same, giving us the occasional Hannibal eye-twinkle just to remind us who the baddest man on screen is.  The only actor who seemed to put any effort into it at all was Hugo Weaving (and I expect nothing less from him, having done so spectacularly in V For Vendetta), who played a visiting Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline.

But most of the blame can fall squarely on the shoulders of director Joe Johnston.  The pacing of the film was dreadful; since the transformation only takes place during a full moon – basically, once a month – the film pretty much went into fast-forward during those off-days.  The fast-camera rise of the moon seemed as hackneyed as you might expect, and the visages of the werewolf’s face would have been better served if it had been flesh and blood and not CGI. 

About the only good thing I can say about The Wolfman (apart from Weaving’s performance) was that the transformations themselves were actually quite good and convincing, though not nearly as convincing as it was in An American Werewolf in London, which in my mind is still the best werewolf movie ever.  But that is not enough for me to recommend this film.  Sorry to say, it’s just another sub-par, bastardized remake of another Hollywood classic.

2 / 5 stars

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