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>> Friday, February 12, 2010

'The Wolfman' misses by a hair.

Oscar winning actors Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro take the male leads in The Wolfman as father and son, Lawrence and Sir John Talbot. After the death of his brother, Ben, Lawrence reunites with his father and Ben's bride-to-be, Gwen, played by Emily Blunt. Taken aback by how distraught the beautiful Gwen is by Ben's death, Lawrence agrees to not rest until he finds Ben's killer. After seeing Ben's body, Lawrence comes to realize this isn't your typical "Ripper case".

Lawrence finds himself at a gypsy camp after coming across a talisman he found with his brother's belongings. While at the camp, a blur of hair and blood take over the scene as a growling, barking monster tears up the camp and everyone in it. Lawrence decides to run after the beast but soon finds himself with a chunk taken out of his neck, but luckily alive. The gypsy woman who helps to repair him though, assures him in one month's time during the next full moon, he may not be so fortunate.

After a time lapse and a montage of Lawrence tossing and turning, the worst seems to be true come the first full moon. It appears he is after all, a wolfman. You can guess what starts to happen from here.

The Wolf Man was released in 1941 and is considered to be one of the great monster movie classics of all time. At the time the effects were astounding, and story spellbinding. And for over 70 years, it has remained untainted despite older movies like Teen Wolf and newer ones like Underworld and Twilight bringing werewolves back into the spotlight. That is, it has remained untainted until now.

I believe when it comes to classic movie remakes (especially ones that are this old) its important to make sure you pay a certain homage to the original for which your film is based, as well as making newer decisions that help to make the story stronger. So it is beyond me that with two Oscar winning actors, a large budget and an established fan base why a unique movie such as this can turn out to be such a disappointment.

Before I go into that, its important to point out the good - the look of the wolfman is wonderful. Lawrence in his beast form is not a pure werewolf, he is exactly as the title describes - part wolf, part man. The transformation scenes are exceptional, although I don't know if bad CG is acceptable anymore, especially after Avatar. The transformations make sense in the way the bones under the skin move and the way the sharp wolf teeth break through his gums. Hugo Weaving's Abberline is also an entertaining character in this film as well, but perhaps only because of his fellow actors' performances - which brings me to the bad.

Shame on you both Mr. Del Toro and Mr. Hopkins. It's pretty clear neither of you cared much about this film. Both of your performances were phoned in and uninspiring. In films and theatre there's something called the suspension of disbelief. In most cases a viewer is able to sink into this suspension within the first 10 minutes of any movie. I was not able to get into it until over an hour into Wolfman - and I was out of it just as quickly. For this I will not only blame these two actors, but the writer Andrew Kevin Walker who also worked on Sleepy Hollow and Se7en. Its seems like the makers of this film had an idea for a bunch of really cool scenes, that they threw them together into a movie and decided it was good enough. And there was definitely more that could have been done here, and one of those might have been to slow things down a little and really let the viewer feel what Lawrence is going through. Instead your left feeling like you could care less what happens to either him or those he cares about. You're more likely to think "wow, that wolfman looks cool howling at the moon" vs "wow, that sucks what Lawrence is going through". This is all outside of probably the worst death scene to grace silver screens since . . . you know, I don't actually know. But I did find what most people call the worst death scene of all time on YouTube, from a low-budget film called Hard Ticket to Hawaii.

The fact here is that in most films (either good or bad) a strong ending can save the entire movie. This movie's ending is disappointing and uneventful and (along with the acting and the story) that is why I am saying leave this a closed door and see something else instead. There's enough Oscar nominated films playing right now and unless you've seen them all first, skip The Wolfman and save yourself from disappointment.
*Stills courtesy of Universal Pictures


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