Review: The Wolfman

The Wolfman | Joe Johnston, 2010

It is widely known that The Wolfman had a tough journey to the silver screen. It was a passion project for star/producer Benicio Del Toro, but things never got together. There were countless writers, Mark Romanek was attached at one point as director and the movie was ready to get going but he left because it was taking too much time and wanted to make Never Let Me Go instead, and in the end, after many years, they got stuck with Joe “Jumanji” Johnston. In the end, according to critics and audiences, the battlescars showed and it flopped with both groups. However, while it is not a great movie, it’s not nearly as bad as its reputation.

In the opening scene of The Wolfman, we see a man in a forest. And then we see him being torn to pieces by a creature. Next we see Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) performing “Hamlet” with Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), his brother’s fiancée, in the audience. She is there to tell him that his brother is dead, and that she would like him to come home to help her find out who killed him. He goes, although he does not want to face his father (Anthony Hopkins). And so, as we expect, Lawrence faces the creature and gets bitten by him, and so now he is also a wolfman, and mayhem ensues.

Pretty much everything about the movie seems perfect for the production. Rick Baker’s makeup is, as one would expect, incredible the art direction is fantastic, the cinematography is not the greatest, but it gets the job done, Danny Elfman’s score is sometimes creepy, and every role was perfectly cast.

The problem with the movie is, however, that after so many false starts, they decided to go with whatever script and a so-so director who did not have what it takes to tackle a horror movie. First off, the script is filled with period horror clichés, bad dialogue, and very poor character development. The actors do all they can to elevate the movie, but there is only so much they can do.

And then there is Johnston’s work. I liked what he did with Hidalgo and Jurassic Park III, but nothing in his filmography would tell that he is equipped for anything other than adventure movies. For the first hour or so, I though that he was actually going to pull it off, but once Del Toro becomes the wolfman, it turns into a crime/adventure movie, and that is not what it should have been. Also not helping is his reliance on CGI. It has been said that Rick Baker was promised a transformation that involved practical effects a makeup, along the lines of what he did in An American Werewolf in London, and he prepared it, but Johnston decided to go with CGI for the transformation. And the CG is not effective whatsoever. The transformation is supposed to be somewhat disturbing because we are seeing a human being turning into a monster, but when you realize it is a computer image, the effect wears off. Also, during the big chase in London, everything looks too slick. For example, when he is running through rooftops, it looks like he is just running through a flat surface, and that took me out of the movie. CGI should have been kept to a minimum, but alas, it wasn’t and the movie suffered from it.

With that said, I enjoyed the movie. It could have been much better, but it is rare now a days to see an ambitious studio movie such as this, although it is a remake. If you are looking for a horror movie, look elsewhere, but if you are looking for an OK way to kill two hours, go ahead and watch it.

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