The Wolfman

wolfman

C+

Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving

Before any man becomes beast, Joe and Co. set the tone with their choice of a vintage Universal logo preceding the credits, setting us up for a throwback to the halcyon days of monster movie making in the 30s and 40s.

The film opens in a heavily fogged forest — the whole movie is shrouded in fog — you could assume half the budget was dedicated to smoke and fog machines. A man is, typically, on his own and the moon is full. Tree branches twitch and break, a rustle and, well, you know the routine.

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) is walking a Shakespearean stage when his brother’s wife finds him to tell him his brother has gone missing. After first dismissing her, he returns to England and the estate where he was raised to aid in the search. During a chilly reunion between father (Anthony Hopkins) and son, we learn the brother was the unfortunate man in the woods from the first scene.

Lawrence decides that to make up for being absent in his brother’s life, he will find the killer. Several gypsies and foggy nights later, Lawrence finds himself nose to muzzle with his brother’s killer.

The movie is gray, gray and more gray. It suits the material very well, but combined with the actors subdued performances there is no life at all in this film. Del Toro appropriately carries the weight of Lawrence’s harrowing childhood in every scene. Hopkins only lets loose near the end of the film and the line, “Terrible things Lawrence, you’ve done terrible things,” featured in all the trailers is delivered with the psychopathic glee that made Hannibal Lector famous. A line like this could become equally famous if delivered in a better movie.

The look of the werewolf holds true to the original monster movies. Rick Baker’s makeup work is fantastic. But when the werewolf shifts from two legs to four and the CGI kicks in, the authenticity the film strives for dissolves into any one of the three Underworld films.

The wolfman in this movie is a killer. He does not think about whom or what he is killing. The violence is quick and gruesome. Maybe Johnston felt that in today’s horror world of Hostel and Saw, anything less than visceral beheadings and entrails strewn across wet cobblestone would come across as too tame. The extreme violence feels out of place within the depressed and slow-paced climate of the movie.

The Wolfman tries hard to be a classic retold, but never fully commits. Horror fans will be bored, while an older crowd looking for more ambitious plot and character development will come away wanting. C+

The Wolfman is available on DVD June 1st

tags: anthony hopkins, benicio del toro, joe johnston, the wolfman

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