By Dave Campbell | February 12, 2010
Director: Joe Johnston
Writer(s): Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self (screenplay) Curt Siodmak (1941 screenplay)
Starring: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Geraldine Chaplin
The Wolfman opens as Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) receives word from his brother’s fiance Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) that his brother Ben has gone missing. Lawrence leaves New York and returns to his native home outside of London greeted by his father Sir John Talbot (Sir Anthony Hopkins). After arriving the family soon learns that Ben has been brutally murdered and his body was found in the “moonlit” Blackmoor woods.
Lawrence vows to find out what happened to his brother and finds a curious medallion among Ben’s personal effects. This leads him to investigate the nearby gypsy camp where he meets the old gypsy woman Maleva; coincidentally on a full moon night. Ben’s medallion came from Maleva and she warns Lawrence of the same great dangers that she shared with Ben just as screams erupt from the camp. You guessed it, K-9 shapeshifter!
Lawrence has a face-off with wolfy and ends up being bitten on the neck, rescued by the gypsies, and returned to his father. Changes begin to happen to Lawrence as he heals unnaturally fast and gains new and hairy qualities. These events bring in the interest of Scotland Yard who sends Inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving) to investigate. Soon the Talbot family secrets are revealed and we learn why they are so dysfunctional and estranged.
Universal brings back one of their classic flagship monsters to the screen reprising the werewolf from Werewolf of London (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941) in an attempt to carry out it’s legacy. What we get is something far from classic and embarrassingly bad. The problems with The Wolfman, is that it falls completely apart with an extremely flimsy plot and energy lacking script. Say it ain’t so Benicio! This is hands down one of the most lifeless performances to grace the cinema in the last decade. Sure del Toro didn’t have a lot of interesting dialog to work with, but the delivery was phoned in at best. In fact, the casting in this film just seemed off in general with Hugo Weaving, Emily Blunt, and the supporting players being the only cast that felt at all right to me.
Great lengths went into crafting the design, style, and atmosphere of the film which were high points of the experience. Rick Baker’s make-up is stellar as always and the cinematography is quite pleasing to the eyes. The CG visuals are also fairly impressive and the gore level was much higher than expected. I also enjoyed the Danny Elfman score which sets a nice mood for pending horror and adventure that the studio originally wanted to scrap.
Sadly the final product is messy and lacks the confidence of a well directed film. The Wolfman never finds it’s identity in what it wants to be; a modern gore/horror film? a classic homage? Oh and the howling scenes…were these meant to gain laughs? Where Tim Burton successfully found the Hammer Films spirit in Sleepy Hollow, director Joe Johnston takes The Wolfman and gets completely lost in the Blackmoor woods.