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February 12, 2010

The Wolfman (2010)

2010, Dir. by Joe Johnston.

When it comes to film adaptations, I'm a fanboy first and a critic second. I enjoyed the Fantastic 4 movies. I'd rank Iron Man as my favorite comic book film. Heck, I saw Van Helsing multiple times in theaters. Once I've made up my mind that I love something, I lose my head. So, when the news broke that Benicio Del Toro would star in an update of my favorite Universal monster flick, The Wolf Man, I became that drooling mindless zombie that I become in these situations, and waited for the film with the highest of hopes. I waited a lot longer than expected due to some delays, and after finally seeing the film tonight, it hurts to say that I can see why.

Directed by Joe Johnston, The Wolfman is a technical disaster. Sure, it's got some atmospheric scenery and a moody score from Danny Elfman to make it seem slick, but there are so many things going wrong throughout the film. Several transitions are handled with mind-numbingly annoying gimmicks like white flashes between shots or characters moving with ghosting between steps. It seems like half the movie is composed of the camera lingering on the scenery while we wait for action to occur, and when action does occur it's mostly in quick, unrecognizable bursts. The few full on shots of our werewolf lead are pretty impressive, and I wasn't bothered by the CGI approach to the character in them - but it's clear that the CGI was primarily needed to make the action scenes more comfortable for modern audiences.

Apart from the visual flaws, the story is far removed from the original tale and takes some ridiculous turns for the worst as it barrels along carelessly. Characters and relationships are changed entirely, and scenes that branch out to other locales seem to be filler. I understand that adapting a 70 minute film like The Wolf Man requires a modern filmmaker to add some elements to the story, but I've always been a fan of keeping things simple. By adding to and changing the story in so many ways, the film becomes more convoluted and less interesting at the same time.

The actors provide the film's highlights, but even they aren't at full strength. I'm a big fan of Del Toro, and he physically fills the role well, but there's not as much time developing his character as the much shorter original spent developing Lon Chaney, Jr's. Emily Blunt is the other highlight as the damsel in distress, but that's mostly because she's so ridiculously good-looking. Hugo Weaving does his usual adequate job as the Inspector on the wolf's trail, leaving me the biggest name in the cast to consider - Sir Anthony Hopkins as Lord Talbot. By far the film's biggest misstep is the characterization of the father that Hopkins portrays, and it seems he was given free reign to ham it up as much as he wanted in this role. This leads to an over-the-top and considerably silly performance from the Oscar winner. I've always been a big fan of Claude Rains, who played the original Lord Talbot, but I've rarely missed him as much as I did while watching Hopkins in this film.

Combining the facts that the film is technically annoying, ridiculous in plot, and features underwhelming acting with the far fall the story has taken from an incredibly simple 1941 script that captured the tragic nature of the Wolf Man character perfectly, and it's hard for me to find much good to say about this film, even if I was prepared to throw caution to the wind as a fan. While I'm sure that fan in me will return to this film a few more times, continuing to hope I find the things I loved about the original tale, I can't find it in me to recommend the new Wolfman at all.

But hey, this is Hollywood 2010! We can get a reboot next year, right? Please?


Hey! Look Behind You! said...

I decided to skip it last night and today it's kind of cold, now I'm thinkin' this isn't worth going out in the cold for. Thanks for the heads up.

Box Office Boredom said...

Knowing your fanboy like love for the monster movies, this film has got to be bad. I expected it to take a bit of a beating from The Mike, but I thought the end paragraph would say something like "despite it's flaws, it is a wolfman movie which makes The Mike happy."

Boy was I wrong! Great work Mike!

JLJackson said...

I can't find it in me to recommend the new Wolfman at all.

Couldn't have said it better myself. Thought it was just OK. Maybe an updated version of the novel would be better? In the meantime, I'm settling for this prequel to The Wolfman, although I have my doubts. It's an interesting idea though, publishing a novel as it's written online for free because you hate your publisher.