When you hear there’s a new movie called The Wolfman directed by the guy who did Jurassic Park III (Joe Johnston), expectations really aren’t all that high.
And don’t let an all-star cast of accomplished actors fool you. Not even Benicio Del Toro (Che), Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) elevate it from B-movie status.
After the disappearance of his brother, Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) returns to his family estate to find out what happened to him. He learns that a savage beast has been killing villagers every full moon and discovers the horrible destiny that’s in store for him as well.
Things we liked about the movie:
1. Clearly, the big draw is watching Del Toro turn into a werewolf and, as such, these scenes appear to have been given the most effort. Aided by skillful CGI, makeup maestro and six-time Oscar winner Rick Baker’s work is terrific nightmare fodder and just about as realistic as a walking, half-man, half-dog can be.
2. The action sequences are gripping and unapologetically violent. From the blood-soaked opening title, to a creepy gypsy camp and an all-out assault on Victorian London, The Wolfman satisfies that guilty, B-movie bloodlust. It’s well aided by foggy, gloomy cinematography; stellar production values; and a surprisingly not inappropriate Danny Elfman score.
3. Of all the top-notch talent who slummed it for this film, Weaving is the only one to find the right balance between shameless hamming (Hopkins) and mopey, internalized method acting (Del Toro). His Inspector Aberline is the liveliest, most interesting character, and we desperately wish he was given more to do, even if we were still expecting him to end every sentence with “Mr. Anderson.”
Things we disliked about the movie:
1. The biggest drawback to a werewolf is that it’s only scary once a month. That gives the movie 27 days to fill in between action scenes, and it chugs through obligatory filler and forced, unnecessary subplots.
2. What little exposition there needs to be to move the central, man-becomes-wolf plot along is handled very clumsily. There is a mysterious book helpfully labeled Lycanthropy: Ancient Gypsy Rites and a scene where a character literally sits down and explains the plot to another. It’s like horror movie cliff notes.
3. Poor Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada). She’s the leading lady of a horror film, and she doesn’t even get to be a damsel in distress! She’s completely useless and unconvincing as a love interest, and is deliberately absent from all the major action pieces.
All in all, The Wolfman is good for a quick scare, but is then immediately forgettable.