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The Wolfman

Director Joe Johnston's 2010 remake of the classic Universal horror film.

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I'm Howling in Disappointment

  • Feb 18, 2010
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Atmospherically, "The Wolfman" is spot on, which means there are a lot of behind-the-scenes people to thank. Let's start with Rick Heinrichs, the production designer; his sets evoke a gothic style that may not be realistic, but is an absolute pleasure to look at. Then there's Rick Baker, who has proven time and time again that he's a master at makeup effects; his werewolf designs are convincingly primal, all ghoulish facial contortions and untamed tufts of fur. There's also Shelly Johnson, whose shadowy cinematography brilliantly captures the essence of the horror genre. Milena Canonero's costumes are effectively drab. Danny Elfman's score is wonderfully moody. From a technical point of view, this movie is a triumph.

But as a story, it's a serious let down. I find this odd, since the basic plot is the same as the original 1941 film written by Curt Siodmak. I'm sure director Joe Johnston and writers Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self had the best of intentions, but unfortunately, they let their film fall victim to weak character development, unresolved subplots, and scenes that place gore above genuine fright. It's an updated film, alright - for audiences that favor heavy action and elaborate death scenes. Like so many remakes that have come before it, "The Wolfman" takes a neat idea and turns it into a shallow spectacle of art direction and special effects.

The plot: In the year 1891, Shakespearean actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns from New York to England when he learns of the death of his brother, Ben. For reasons I won't reveal, Lawrence has kept himself distant from his family, especially his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), an unaffectionate man who lives in a sprawling estate so dreary, it's a wonder it isn't teeming with ghosts. When Lawrence gets a look at his brother's body, he's repulsed; Ben was ripped to shreds, either by a wild animal or a deranged lunatic. Prompted by his own grief - and by his brother's fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt) - Lawrence takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of things.

The discovery of a medallion on Ben's body leads Lawrence to a gypsy camp, where Ben had been acting as a liaison between them and the town. A mysterious old woman (Geraldine Chaplin) gives him the obligatory warning about an ancient curse, which is appropriate given the fact that tonight just happens to be a full moon. And that's right about the time a vicious werewolf attacks the camp, resulting in Lawrence getting bitten. You know what happens when a werewolf bites you during a full moon, don't you?

Here enters Inspector Francis Aberline of Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving), who has reason to believe that Lawrence is hiding something. Let's just say that the Talbots haven't been the happiest of families.

The problems with this movie don't have much to do with the tone, although I must admit, the updated animal-attack scenes were a bit heavy handed with the gore. No, the real problems stem from the content, or rather, how the content was reinterpreted. Consider the inevitable romance between Lawrence and Gwen; while tragedy often times diminishes the capacity for overt emotions, the way these two regard each other is so low key that it's impossible to believe they would ever fall in love. It's never really explained why they fell in love in the first place. Maybe this has to do with pacing, since the final cut makes it seems as if they developed feelings over the course of one day.

Some of the blame rests with the actors, or maybe with the way the actors were directed (it's hard to tell sometimes). Del Toro, an accomplished actor in all respects, plays Lawrence as an emotionless drone. He's quiet, monotone, and shows virtually no range - except, of course, for when he's transforming into a werewolf, at which point he's buried by computer graphics and makeup. Hopkins isn't much better; his character is a man of mystery, and yet he's so passive and matter-of-fact in his delivery that none of his revelations shock us. Not that it matters a great deal, since his secrets aren't all that plausible within the context of the story.

It's sad when the technical achievements of a film upstage the story. There are moments of dazzling cinematic wizardry, such as when Lawrence hallucinates while under the influence of psychiatric drugs. You're amazed by the visuals, but you're also at a loss to explain how they're significant to the plot. To me, it all seemed like filler material, a way to compensate for a lack of imagination. Perhaps the film's troubled production is responsible; numerous reshoots and a rejection of Danny Elfman's score (which was subsequently used anyway) saw the original release date of November 2008 give way to February 2009, April 2009, and November 2009 before finally opening on February 12, 2010. With such long delays and drastic changes in direction, it's no wonder the end result is bit disappointing.

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More The Wolfman reviews
review by . March 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Embrace Your Inner Monster
   This movie was quite a surprise. I've never seen the original 1941 film, so I had no idea what to expect. I certainly never imagined what the film actually turned out to be--a confusing story and plot that relied too heavily on CGI affects to cover glaring gaps. I don't expect horror films to make perfect, logical sense. I prepare myself for the plot holes and actually enjoy exclaiming over the fact that there's no way the murderer could have moved that fast to kill the …
review by . December 24, 2010
 can see what Hollywood was trying to go for with this movie. Namely, a modern attempt to recreate the style of classic 1930's monster movies. Their first effort at it is The Wolfman, and they definitely pull that off in most ways. Benicio Del Toro does a fantastic job in the lead role, and Anthony Hopkins is naturally such a good actor that he can bring perfection to any role that he assumes. Lush, victorian-style visuals combined with bloody gritty violence also work quite well surprisingly.   …
review by . February 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
2 ½ Stars: All HOWL and VERY Little BITE!
   There is no question that the original 1941 film “Wolfman” was a classic so I would not even try to compare director Joe Johnston’s 2010 remake titled “The Wolfman”. I’ve read that the film had suffered many re-shoots and heavy editing, actually the movie had been pushed back to different release dates before it settled in on one. The film is a fractured stab at the classic horror film, it has so much style that gave it potential, yet the storytelling …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I saw the Wolfman earlier in the year when it came to theaters with my kid and again recently with my wife on On Demand and thoroughly enjoyed myself each time. I have gotten kind of tired of these stupid, hipstery, over-stylized "horror" movies with werewolves that simply turn into giant dogs and fight people or vampires or whatever. This was a throwback to what the wolfman really is, a cursed man who turns into a half man half wolf during the full moon. This movie had the classic look …
review by . February 12, 2010
Pretty Tame for a Beast
 THE WOLFMAN Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self   Directed by Joe Johnston   Starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving   Sir John Talbot: Never look back, son.  The past is a wilderness of horror.   Theoretically, I would welcome any monster movie these days that wasn’t about vampires and that also wasn’t geared towards teenage girls.  When that alternative is THE WOLFMAN though, a remake …
review by . August 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This is an interesting new take on the werewolf genre. The movie takes place in the late nineteenth century England, and at the center of the story is a family that has been torn apart by inter-generational feuds between father and his two sons. The setting of the Victorian England is richly mined for its visual backdrop, and this is one of the more appealing features of this movie. The werewolf CG effects are very well done, but they are nothing spectacular. In fact, the CG-generated werewolves …
review by . May 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Legend is reborn......
Horror, a genre that has terrified millions for the better part of 114 years this fabled genre took its first leap in 1896  with Georges Méliès'  "Le Manoir du diable"(The House of the Devil) which is cited as the very  first horror film. another more influential  film that is now lost to time is  Paul Wegener's "The Golem"(1915) taken from an ancient Jewish legend, Than there came  Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" …
Quick Tip by . November 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
As is often the case with remakes of classic films,The Wolfman just doesn't live up to the original. While the film boasts an impressive cast, all of whom give strong performances, the story sinks beneath the number of uninspired action scenes and the overuse of special effects. Having said that, this is the first time in a mainstream American film where I've seen realistic werewolf carnage, which was rather fun. LOL! Luckily, the cast takes their roles seriously despite the poorly written …
review by . March 01, 2010
It was Saturday night, on a movie and dinner date with my wife with the kids at home with the babysitter. We went to see The Wolfman, with a quick Thai dinner to follow.      The Wolfman is the perfect kind of a movie for a night out like this. Nothing too out of the ordinary, a fairly predictable plot, and an old fashioned horror movie which reminded me of those old time Hammer horror movies I used to watch as a teenager. Imagine those old movies, but remade with modern effects …
Quick Tip by . August 01, 2010
I just saw this film as a rental this evening; my view was it had spooky scenery, some good visual effects, and I thought the werewolf was one creepy-ass creature, although there were not enough of the wolf scenes to really satisfy me. Lots of conversation in it, although most of it was pertinent to the story...more gory scenes would have made it better.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman, is lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father, Talbot sets out to find his brother... and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself. Talbot's childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother's fiancée, Gwen Conliffe, tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline has come to investigate.
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Director: Joe Johnston
Genre: Horror
Release Date: Febuary 12th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Stuber Productions
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