07 March 2010

The Wolfman

Cast: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Emily Blunt
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker & David Self

Based on the screenplay "The Wolf Man" by Curt Siodmak

Director: Joe Johnston

Release: 12 February 2010

Universal, 125 mins., Rated R

Production delay after production delay, bumped release dates about three or four times, composer changes, editing redo, and finally Universal released Joe Johnston's The Wolfman in theaters to mostly negative reviews. Of course me, being the Universal Monster lover that I am, saw it immediately first day, and was disappointingly underwhelmed. It's not really, really bad, nor is it 'OMG! That was awesome!' Simply put, there were some things that were done really well, and there are other aspects of the film that could have used some work. But overall, the experience was still fun, and it was great seeing such a beastie cinematic icon come back to the silver screen since....Van Helsing (?).

Renowned stage performer Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) returns to his family estate to investigate the murder of his brother by some terrible monstrosity. His homecoming isn't exactly super happy, as things are as awkward as ever with his father (Hopkins), and hormones are a-boomin' with his brother's fiance Gwen (Blunt), and finally, he gets bit by a werewolf. Things just get worse from there.

Notes & Reflections
Director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) and creature effects Oscar-winner wizard Rick Baker collaborate with Benicio Del Toro (Sin City) to remind audiences what a real werewolf is like. Quick, vicious, and bloody, with a human soul trapped as the host of this terrible beastie. Well, almost there. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but there's something missing from this 're-imagining.' And since I've had this review under 'Edit' for awhile, pondering what to say, I'll just make things simpler and bullet my thoughts down:

1) The creature design was very, very nice. I liked that. Watching it in motion, however, when not animated, was not as spectacular. Just didn't real sell it. Ironically, the digital werewolf that runs amok in London was quite phenomenal, and that whole sequence of events was genuinely thrilling.

2) Benicio Del Toro...yeah, I didn't like this guy. Sure, he can play a man pained as much as Bruce Banner innerly tormented by his green side, but I didn't care about his character - either the fault of Benicio or the screenwriter - and I couldn't really understand what he was saying sometimes. He seemed to make a artistic craft out of low, low, low speaking tones. Plus, that guy just looked tired. I felt bad for him, seeing his eyes look all old and 'guh, I need some damn sleep.' I just wanted to give the bloke some pills so he could go night-night.

3) The editing was 50/50. Very tight during some sequences, and very good at making suspenseful scenes actually suspenseful, but the flick just felt long.

4) The romantic subplot involving Lawrence and his brother's fiance, Gwen, was kind of lame. It felt like a script contrivance to manufacture another form of 'tragedy' that Lawrence can endure - take his brother's lass, or not take his brother's lass? Oh, crap, I'm a werewolf, can't be with her anyways. Boo. But by no means is this a diss to Emily Blunt - I quite like her as an actress, it's just that she really got the short end of the stick.

5) Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, stole every scene he was in from the moment he first appeared. The probability of a sequel to this remake is unlikely, but I do confess it would be interesting to see where his character goes from here after the events of this flick...

6) Anthony Hopkins kicked ass.

7) There's some really awesome sequences, but then there's the Wolfman vs. Wolfman fight near the end, and although it was filmed and acted quite straight-forward, rather intense-like, I couldn't help but smirk. It was a little cheesy. And I was easily distracted with the remarkable similarity of the Wolfman suit to Hopkins, who reveals himself to be the original Wolfie.

8) Thank you Universal and Joe Johnston for not making this into a PG-13 mess, and instead going for the hard R. Show is the damage of these Wolfmen, show us the carnage that results from these hungry beasties; and that they do. So I commend you folks for that. The wolf was genuinely creepy, and I'm perhaps most thankful for that.

9) There was a sense of predictability to the overall story. But the more I think about it, there's really not much one can do with a werewolf film, and especially one that's a re-imagining of a older film. If a sequel was commissioned, I wager the writers would have nearly free reign to come up with whatever original storylines they would want.

10) Danny Elfman's score, which got reinserted into the movie after the score by that Underworld composer wasn't satisfactory to the company, didn't actually feel like a Danny Elfman score, so thank you for that. It's been awhile since I saw the pic, but I do recall that Elfman effectively created a intense and eerie atmosphere which nicely compliments the film. There's nothing inherently wrong or spectacular with the score, so I don't quite understand Universal's disagreements about it.

Awesome Scene of Awesomeness
Lawrence, believed to be the murderer of several people by Francis Aberline (Weaving), is sent back to the asylum he was once institutionalized in as a young lad. The Doctor, believing his patient to be suffering from delusions by mental strain, presents Lawrence in front of a large group of colleagues as they wait for the full moon to shine through the window and show him that this 'monster' is all in his head. Well, they were wrong. Chaos ensues. And it's awesome.

Final Verdiction
The first movie of 2010 I was desperately waiting for, and sadly, it sorta underperformed. It's still quite a good movie - not even close to the wretched mess I and many other critics were expecting - but I feel there still could be so much more depth to the movie. And that Benicio Del Toro was completely wrong and must go bye-bye. Still, I enjoyed my time, so I'd recommend it.

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