The Wolfman lives in us all, and is dying to get out, unfortunately it lived stronger inside Mark Romanek than Joe Johnston. The former was slated to direct and went through a hell of a lot of pre-production until he left the project and the latter picked it up. I think the greatest tragedy is that they had all-time makeup genius Rick Baker, known for his still eye-popping effects from American Werewolf in London, but didn’t use him. Instead they opted for a CGI werewolf transformation, which was decent but nowhere nearly as cool as what Rick Baker probably could have accomplished with today’s tools.
Why you’ll like it:
Some decent gore, good performances and grand and beautiful set design and wardrobe.
The setup is simple, Benicio plays Lawrence Talbot who left home long ago and became a theatric performer, but his brother has died and so he returns home to deal with his father, played by Anthony Hopkins, and to find the killer at large. This naturally leads him to crossing paths and being bitten by a werewolf, and to top it off he seems to be connecting with his deceased brother’s fiance-in-mourning (Emily Blunt). Oh, the humanity! I actually really loved the interaction between Benicio and Blunt, it flowed really well and made quite a bit of sense in another time and life perhaps.
I liked the pseudo-love story so much that I wished we’d seen more of that and less of the story surrounding around Lawrence and his father. Even though Hopkins is aces as always, it just seemed a little stale after a few scenes and really lacked emotional pull. I would be really hard pressed to blame greats such as Benicio and Hopkins, so I’ll point the finger at the script. However, one of my other “issues” was Benicio played his character so sullen and melancholy that he lacked charisma altogether. While I can appreciate that perhaps that’s who his character seemed to be, it’s hard to take that from your lead for an entire film, but it did contrast brightly against the moments where the wolf came out.
Why you won’t like it:
Bad CGI usage, lack of execution in key sequences and generally poor storytelling.
I think my absolute favorite part of the film was actually the set design and style of the movie itself. I think you could only describe it as gorgeous, the attention to detail quite perfect in execution. Gothic and dark, from the buildings and sets to the clothing and decor, it fit to perfection and never out of place. Speaking of highlights, Hugo Weaving once again turned in a peak performance and was a delight to watch as he played the detective working the case of the slain brother. I also deeply appreciated that the film takes its time and spreads across a number of months instead of feeling rushed, which makes sense considering that full moons don’t come every other evening, but appreciated none the less.
I was really excited at the prospect of this film being made. I’ll shamefully admit I haven’t seen the original yet, but the idea of a period piece horror of this magnitude set my expectations high, especially when involving pros like Del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins. I won’t say that I disliked the film, because that’s not true, it was entertaining and had some fun moments, but I’m left with wondering what could have been had Romanek stayed on to finish what he started. The biggest sham of all being the end fight sequence between the two werewolves, it’s all in CGI and it’s all completely and utterly awful which leaves us with an overall: good, but not even close to great.
3 stars out of 5.
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston
Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Release Date: February 12, 2010