''Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.''
Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten, and subsequently cursed by, a werewolf.
Benicio Del Toro: Lawrence Talbot
The Wolfman; Directed by Joe Johnston with Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self working on the screenplay. Well, it's a gorey bit of diluted fun.
To start, the film is beautifully produced, and photographed by Shelly Johnson with desaturated colours hearkening back to the similar look of Sleepy Hollow rather than the more lush, vibrant palette found in Bram Stoker's Dracula. With the actual production designed by Sleepy Hollow veteran Rick Heinricks, and the screenplay co-written by the aforementioned Andrew Kevin Walker, the general audience will be subconsciously reminded of that last great, Gothic chiller.
As the title character, Benicio Del Toro goes all out. This Wolfman is brutal, scary and doesn't hold back. While not quite the fluffy-headed, neatly dressed icon we all know and love from the original, Rick Baker's masterful make-up is still faithful enough to legendary monster-maker Jack Pierce's classic design (despite making him bulkier and little more wild.) It is truly a testament to Pierce, that a character he designed almost seventy years ago can still be horrifying (with a few tweaks) to modern audiences! Even when the Wolfman was tearing up extras and shredding them up in the goriest ways possible, it was seeing that classic face doing it that nearly brought a tear of joy to this fan's eye!
As for the rest of the cast... how can you not like Anthony Hopkins in anything? The man's played Van Helsing, Hannibal Lecter and even Zorro! That being said, nobody plays a kooky, twisted old man like Hopkins, a role he plays here deliciously. If another actor was cast in the role, I don't think the film would have been as good as it turned out. Emily Blunt is attractive and plays the damsel as well as anyone, and Geraldine Chaplin is memorable, despite being grossly underused as Maleva. Of course the third great player in the story is Hugo Weaving as Inspector Aberline. While not as show-stealing as Hopkins, he certainly gives Del Toro a run for his money in the charisma department as the inquisitive detective. ''Another pint of bitter please?''...It's sort of like watching V for Vendetta when he dresses up as the old dude and does that jolly crisp London accent. Quality albeit humourous without intending to be.
I must admit the film flatly kind of fails in the character development department, shifting the original's tragic drama of Man vs. Self, to a more dumbed-down Man vs. Beast (aka Dad) conflict. I do admit, though obvious from the trailers, it was a good twist to spice things up from the original, but I do wish more time was given to flesh out Talbot's inner-suffering.
Maybe it had enough, but Del Toro just didn't embody it like Chaney. However, the climactic werewolf showdown was a bit much, and while expected from the beginning, it was the only part I found kind of cheesy or silly (especially the Bad Wolf's demise, which is still burned in my mind!) The fight scene reminded me of something out of Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman, with the werewolves looking more like two of Disney's Beasts throwing themselves at each other. Another problem I had with the film was the lack of Maleva. While she was prominent in a few scenes, she wasn't given a strong presence throughout like she could have, and it seems like the filmmaker's completely forgot about the "Pure in Heart" poem in the film's actual story, so they shamelessly tacked it on the beginning. I also have to confess that Danny Elfman's salvaged score wasn't as soulful as it could have been, often seeming like a riff on Kilar's Dracula soundtrack; Although supported the film's Gothic atmosphere in areas, where it could have been in fact a lot worse. Although the film was filled with digitally altered skies and quick cuts, they were no where nowhere near as distracting or as fakely executed as with Stephen Sommers' Mummy franchise.
Overall, it's enjoyable yet hardly memorable. While it could have been so much better, I am still grateful for what we got, instead of what it could've been. Finally a Universal horror film remade as an actual horror film and not a dumb action/adventure with plenty of comedy and CGI! After three-years in the making, Joe Johnston's The Wolfman is filled with samples of atmosphere, drama, suspense, black humour and carnage to stand it proudly on the shelf next to Coppola's Dracula, Brannagh's Frankenstein and Burton's Sleepy Hollow as a successor to it's Gothic horror roots. I pray the movie does well, because the efforts of Johnston, the cast and crew and of course Baker's terrific make-up. A standard effort.
''I am what I say I am... a monster.''