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The Wolfman

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

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Crescent moon, not worth a bark, let alone a howl

  • Feb 12, 2010
  • by
Bad dog. If there's anything to be said in defense of "The Wolfman," it's that it's another movie with potential f****d over by the studio. That's all the defense the film deserves. It doesn't take a full moon to illuminate where the production went wrong. Joe Johnston is a nice guy and a good director who shoots movies that look pretty--he knows how to use shadow, that's for sure--and fills them with characters no deeper than celluloid itself. He's also studio-friendly: his films are well-received critically and profitable financially, which is why he won out as director in the end. In hiring Johnston, Universal got a director they could feel safe with. They also sabotaged the potential for a film with vision and, well, worth.

The worthiest aspects of Johnston's "Wolfman," as it is, are two men: Hugo Weaving, who manages to give a Scotland Yard inspector as thin as the paper the script was printed on a façade of life, and Rick Baker, who designed the makeup effects. Anyone familiar with the Werewolf film will know Baker, whose epochal effects for John Landis' "An American Werewolf in London" won the first Best Makeup Effects Oscar in 1982. His effects for "The Wolfman" were stunted by the studio like a plant without fertilizer or water. Baker's work in "American Werewolf" is proof of the vast superiority of physical makeup effects to the modern-day computer-generated imagery, the latter being the method Universal forced him to use. Nonsense. The resulting effects generate more thrills than the other aspects of the film, but look hopelessly crude compared to the effects Baker designed--and executed, physically--almost thirty years ago. All one can say about Weaving is that the liveliness he's able to wring from his talking cliché is nobility like the screen has rarely seen.

Which directs attention to the script, that which attracted me to the project when it went in to development half a decade ago, since it's written by "Seven"'s Andrew Kevin Walker. The script was touched up prior to filming by David Self, unfortunately, whom I think must to be blame for many of its shortcomings. As translated to the screen, the script has flashes of almost exciting vision, flashes rapidly less frequent as the film progresses. Most of the time, the plot takes leaps forward, trips on a sidestep, goes nowhere, and then leaves a hole so wide the monster from a far better monster movie, "Cloverfield," could crouch inside it. The plot seems unsatisfactory in the middle of the film and obnoxious at its end. Some scenes make no sense and suggest Self patchwork that would do David "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" Koepp proud. Cliches are a pack of wolves roaming across the screenplay. The cliches aren't as offensive as the scenes all-too-obviously stolen from Landis' "American Werewolf in London," and they certainly aren't so embarrassing as the painfully stupid werewolf fight I'd prayed the film was smart enough to avoid. Could be the stupid/stolen action-injected scenes became a necessity once Danny Elfman delivered his score, supposedly a homage to Wojciech Kilar's score for Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula," proof that Elfman has revealed himself as a long-since-spent theme-meister whose scores stink.

As does this film, whether you see it as a rehash, a standalone picture, or, ugh, worst of all, the incumbent counterpart to Coppola's "Dracula"--now there was a remake. Coppola's "Dracula" pulsed with sex, bizarrity, and, since those are two of its central components, life. "The Wolfman" is nowhere near as bizarre as I'd like it--the weirdest it gets is some gore, which livens things up just enough to make me grateful the studio went with the R-rated version, and a trippy dream sequence that creeped me out enough for me to consider it successful--and it's about as sexy as a mossy old soda can in the middle of a marsh. Which, with the soda can as completely unrounded character and the marsh providing opportunities for shadows and pretty visuals, might make fitting subject matter for Joe Johnston's next project. Just leave "Frankenstein" alone.

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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.
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Tom Benton ()
Ranked #119
Aspiring high school English teacher with dreams of filmmaking and a strong taste for music.
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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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