Sir Anthony Hopkins proclaims in the film, “The beast will have it’s day!”. Unfortunately if it’s up to Universal Studios, that day won’t be anytime soon.
Bencio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Hugo Weaving star in this remake of the Universal classic. Taking over for Lon Chaney Jr., Del Toro plays as Lawrence Talbot. Talbot this time around is a journeyman actor who comes back to his ancestral home to find his missing brother but ends up staying so he can bone his sister-in-law Gwen (the lovely Emily Blunt).
Much like it’s title character, the film itself has been plagued with numerous setbacks and screw-ups, so much so that I have to give credit to director Joe Johnston for the film coming out as good as it did. As far as Universals recent retreads of the monsters that built their company…”The Wolfman” howls it’s way to the top of the heap. On the downside though, it’s not like tall dark and hairy had any competition to begin with.
One of the main differences in this compared to the original is that in the original Talbot is a tragic figure, wanting nothing to do with the curse and longs to embrace death. Del Toro who is a good replacement for the legendary Chaney plays the character as more of a Byronic hero, as if he were Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” rather than “The Wolfman”. Then there are scenes in the asylum where he starts acting like Jackie Boy from “Sin City” that had me cracking up. This is not to say he does a bad job acting wise, just that his acting is all over the place. The supporting cast all do a fine enough job with Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt, especially,turning in the best performances. Anthony Hopkins is sadly enough cashing in a paycheck here.
Hopkins plays as Talbot’s father and as the plot progresses it turns out that he is the original werewolf that has been terrorizing the countryside. I don’t care about spoiling anything at this point because it’s not like the surprises even matter. You know from the moment you find this out that there is going to be a stereotypical battle between the wolves as the film’s denouement.
This brings me to the special effects. They picked the BEST choice possible to bring forth the wolfman: Rick Baker. If you do not know who he is, he’s the one who did the werewolf transformation scenes in “The Howling”, “An American Werewolf in London”, and “Micheal Jackson’s Thriller”. I actually prefer his earlier works to the ones done here but that’s because I loathe CGI. The scenes of Larry changing are painfully constricting and consist of mostly practical effects with just a bit of CGI.
Just about every scene of Wolfie running on all fours has a cheese close up of him running towards the camera. You can tell it’s just a guy moving his arms back and forth, and to make matters worse the make up during these scenes looks incredibly cheap. If you were to put bright red lipstick on him, he’d end up looking like a hairy minstrel.
The largely CGI Hopkins-wolf is one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve seen in a long time. I couldn’t help but laugh as Sir Hopkins turns into a large, orange-haired cartoon character in the films over-wrought ending fight scene that never should have taken place. The film looses the tragic heart of the original due to this subplot. The focus of the story should have been on the tragedy of Talbot’s curse, rather than the treachery of his father. Be that as it may, neither of the wolfmen are as bad as the ones seen in the craptacular “Van Helsing”.
Though the look of the monsters and acting are in spots out of place, the setting is spot on. I have to give the film props for actually trying to be a mature piece of work with it’s faithful re-creation Victorian era London. The filmmakers even went so far as to give it the old werewolf movie trope by including a local pub in which the peasants gather to speculate as to the nature of the beast in their village. It makes for an interesting stalking ground for which the wolfman to stalk his prey. The cinematography of the locale is pretty much impeccable but unfortunately becomes redundant during the werewolf attacks. As shown in the previews, the camera pans to right of the next victim really fast to show the monster isn’t there, then goes to the left to show the monster is there, at which point it jumps to center while the wolfman kills the victim. If one were inclined they could make a drinking game out of the number of times this happens.
Overall, I think the film was well-intentioned and if it’s backstage drama hadn’t sabotaged it, it might have been a classic. It’s treatment of the wolf as an uncontrollable anti-hero like the Hulk cheese up what is supposed to be a very somber and Gothic mood piece. Go see it for the transformations and carnage, they are fun enough to warrant watching it once for horror fans.
If you are really wanting to see this film, which judging from box office numbers doesn’t seem to be the case, do yourself a favor and pick up the much superior original on sale at Wal-Mart for $10. It comes with a gift certificate for the remake that is worth the same amount as the DVD, minus tax. This way you can at least break even. Like the Coke jingle in the 80’s “You can’t beat the real thing”.
Or if you already own the original, just wait five years to catch the remake premiere on TNT on a Saturday afternoon.
Leave a comment
No comments yet.