The Wolfman Review


The goals of today’s reboots have been to update the originals with the special effects of the modern era and add complexity and depth to cinema’s most memorable characters. This is only half true for Universal’s long-delayed “The Wolfman” remake. The full-moon transformations of man to werewolf are enhanced with top-notch gruesome CGI, but the man behind the beast remains uncomplicated. This “Wolfman” is a classic monster horror film with a modern pulse. Clichéd suspense and generic storytelling are king, only they’re accompanied by extreme gore and curdling special effects for a more 21st Century thrill.

It takes a bit for “The Wolfman” to clearly establish itself as a typical monster movie. The story jumps right in with actor Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) being summoned back home to Blackmoor, England by his brother’s fiancée (Blunt) because his brother has mysteriously disappeared. It’s quickly after that we learn the brother’s dead and suddenly Lawrence and Gwen have an affinity for one another. Then there’s a quick side note assuring us Anthony Hopkins will indeed be creepy as the family patriarch, Sir John Talbot.

After the initial werewolf shreds some guts and swipes off a few heads, it finally bites Lawrence the story really begins. Minus the trite dialogue using monster-related similes about how dangerous he is and how he doesn’t know it and that Gwen should go before she gets hurt all while constant shots of the moon remind us of what will inevitably happen next, it’s entertaining. The two very good scenes in the film happen toward the middle when Lawrence is captured and taken to an asylum in London. First he has a series of nightmarish flashbacks to childhood trauma as the staff tries those reputable ice bath and shock treatments. The best, however, is when the head doctor who believes him crazy wants to make an example of him before a lecture hall of colleagues and straps him to a chair while the full moon is set to show he’s been cured. Of course that’s not what happens at all. Comical gore ensues.

Amid the typical monster shenanigans that result somehow in a wolf-on-wolf showdown, there are a few wasted talents. Emily Blunt is too good for this film and Hugo Weaving (Mr. Smith of “The Matrix” and V in “V for Vendetta”) provides the film’s only example of acting with subtext. Del Toro and Hopkins are more or less wasted although odd characters of questionable morals always come better from Hopkins than from just anybody.

“The Wolfman” is a big-budget monster horror movie and it deserves to be viewed with those kinds of expectations despite the reputation of its stars and the inherent trend of most films trying to reboot a classic going for the more serious, theme-driven stories. “Wolfman” just picks a couple interesting thematic lines and delivers them one more time just to sound legitimate. The film is entertaining despite the basic and surprise-less script. In a sense its shallow delivery is an homage to old-school horror films. It would have been nice to have gotten a more complicated retelling of the tragic tale of Lawrence Talbot, but it works just fine as a genre film.

3/5 Stars

The Wolfman
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self, Curt Siodmak (1941 screenplay)
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving


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