Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) is lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Hopk
ins), Talbot sets out to find his brother, and finds a beast of a legend in himself, clawing to get free.
It’s debateable wether or not the story of the original 1941 The Wolfman doesn’t cut it with modern audiences, or if it’s timeless. What is not debateable, is that trying to have your cake and eating it too can destroy a movie from the ground up. The idea of handing the license of The Wolfman over to the man whose greatest contribution to film is Jumanji, should never have even gotten past rational thought, much less brought up for discussion. The movie is no longer about an ordinary man with a monster inside of him like the trailers would have you believe, it’s just about a monster. An obviously CGI monster that runs like a werewolf from Buffy or Underworld.
With any film involving lycanthropy (the term for those who change into werewolves under the full moon), one would expect good scares and a good transformation between human and werewolf. In the first aspect, The Wolfman is an indecisive mess. Not only is it genuinely not scary, but it can’t decide how it wants to scare you. Sometimes it tries to with a well-made costume, but most of the time the movie resorts to cheap fake-out scares you would expect from one of the dozens of The Ring knock-offs. Among them, is an incredibly lame "oh-it-was-just-the-dog" scare. Something as amature and overused is of lower quality than a classic horror movie…but clearly not for its remake.
In the respect of the werewolf transformation, it looks nice, but that’s all that can really be said about it: nice. There’s nothing revolutionary or special about it. Back in the 1940’s, there were no computers to create cool effects. Film makers had only make up and a camera to work with, so they had to think of unorthodox methods to create the desired effect, which gave birth to many common day techniques. Now, with the technology we have, computers are becoming an easy way out when it comes to special effects (although by no means inexpensive). The Wolfman is one such case, where creativity is stunted and replaced with a computer, like so many other movies. And again, to reiterate, it doesn’t look bad, none of the effects do. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t have been a little more creative in some scenes (scenes that shouldn’t be spoiled here).
The concept of "romance" is completely lost on the writers. Even if they attempted to write anything slightly suggesting romance in the lead characters, Del Toro and Blunt have absolutely zero chemistry together and would have dropped any balls the writers gave to them. It feels like the only reason they are attracted to each other is because the script says so. It isn’t just the romantic aspect that the characters fail in, but largely in all fields. Del Toro is flat, Blunt is in dire need of direction, and Hopkins, for the first time in a long while, is tempting to cross over into "boring".
If any good comes from the dull acting, it makes the ones who are actually trying look that much better. Hugo Weaving has the strongest character of the cast, and is a breath of fresh air on screen. It’s worth noting that in the scenes he enters, the entire atmosphere of the scene picks up, as if his mere presence revives the dead dialogue and character motivation. Especially when you take into account how much time the movie spends with Benicio hogging the screen, depressed.
Sometimes cheesy, sometimes gory, and sometimes (but rarely) good, Universal Pictures’ The Wolfman is reminiscent of the studio’s 1941 version, starring Lon Chaney, Jr.
Visually, the movie couldn’t be more faithful to the original if it tried harder. Its creepy atmosphere, foggy streets, mist-filled forests and especially the headstones almost makes you think you’re watching Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow again. This was a staple in the original, which still to this day, can give the creeps. It’s simply disappointing that Johnston seemed more concerned with making the movie LOOK good, rather then actually making it a good movie.
Final Thoughts: At least it isn’t Van Helsing.
The Wolfman is a 2 out of 5.