Movie Review: "The Wolfman" (2010)
by Armand Vaquer
A "guys' night out" was held last night (most of the guys I was with are married) at Universal City Walk for dinner at Tony Roma's and a screening of the new version of The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot and Anthony Hopkins as John Talbot.
Universal Studios resurrects the classic lycanthrope with this tale of an American who experiences an unsettling transformation after returning to his ancestral home in Victorian-era Great Britain and being attacked by a rampaging werewolf. His brother having recently vanished without a trace, haunted nobleman Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his family estate to investigate. What he discovers upon reuniting with his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins), however, is a destiny far darker than his blackest nightmares. As a young boy, the untimely death of his mother caused Talbot to grow up before his time. Though Talbot would attempt to bury his pain in the past by leaving the quiet Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor behind, the past returns with a vengeance when his brother's fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), convinces him to return home and aid the search for his missing brother. But something monstrous has been stalking the residents of Blackmoor from the nighttime shadows, something not quite human. Not even recently arrived Scotland Yard inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) can dream up a rational explanation for the gruesome spell that has been cast over Blackmoor, yet rumors of an ancient curse persist to this very day. According to legend, the afflicted will experience a horrific transformation by the light of the full moon, their animal rage becoming far too powerful for their human bodies to contain. Now, the woman Talbot loves is in mortal danger, and in order to protect her he must venture into the moonlit woods and destroy the beast before it destroys her. But this isn't your typical hunt, because before the beast can be slain, a simple man will uncover a primal side of himself that he never knew existed. Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker pens a film directed by Joe Johnston and featuring creature effects by special-effects makeup legend Rick Baker.
The movie was very atmospheric and the effects were good. My main gripe with The Wolfman is the editing and script. The editing was too frenetic for my taste. The character development was lacking and casting a Hispanic (Del Toro) as an Englishman did not bring any believability to me. The producers may have tried to address this in the flashback sequences involving Lawrence Talbot's mother. They seem to indicate that she was either Hispanic, Eastern European (or even with gypsy blood) or middle-Eastern. Her background was unclear.
The town already had a werewolf problem at the time of Lawrence's arrival to investigate his brother's death. They were also well-versed in lycanthropy (werewolfism). It also strained credibility to have Lawrence captured in human form to undergo torture. The torture employed seemed pointless.
Those niggling things aside, I was still entertained by the movie. Although it had many faults, I found it more satisfying than the recent thrill-ride The Mummy and Van Helsing movies. The script, at least, took its subject matter seriously. It was based on the 1941 screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who also received credit in this movie).
Although I think Del Toro was miscast (hard to believe he is the same guy in the Timothy Dalton License To Kill James Bond movie), his acting was good and he seemed to "channel" Lon Chaney, Jr.
Rick Baker's make-up was excellent and his make-up of Del Toro did pay a nod to Jack Pierce's 1941 original make-up.
My grade: B+.