Reportedly a "passion project" for actor Benicio Del Toro, this remake has been in development for several years now, but finally began moving forward once director Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III) was attached to the project, quickly replacing Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), who left due to "creative differences". Despite the many obvious flaws in the remake, I still found myself enjoying every minute of it.
I've never seen the original 1941 film, so I can't compare the two, but the premise for this one follows Benicio Del Toro's character "Lawrence", who returns home after he's contacted about the disappearance of his brother. It's soon revealed that his bro was killed by some sort of beast and Lawrence discovers that he had some dealings with local gypsies before his death. Seeking answers, Lawrence decides to question an old woman at a nearby gypsy camp, which also happens to be during the night of the full moon. Naturally the "beast" that attacked his deceased brother terrorizes the camp and takes a nice chunk out of Lawrence's shoulder before running into the woods.
After we pass the first somewhat slow-paced 25-or-so minutes the movie pretty much becomes an action/horror flick, delivering a lot of action-oriented sequences that (along with the CG and period sets and clothing) show off the film's $150-million dollar budget(!?). The look of Benicio in werewolf form was kept fairly classic and similar to the old design, but of course his look shouldn't really come as a surprise since shots of him in full makeup were revealed early into the production.
It's really hard to capture a good werewolf transformation, especially when dealing with CG, but I thought they did a good job in this movie. The transformation looks obviously CG, but it was done fairly well, especially when we were shown a close-up of Benicio's face during one particular scene, but there are other scenes that didn't look as sharp as it could've. The movie is surprisingly gory, but that makes sense considering we're dealing with an old school werewolf here and not some love struck teenager that happens to turn into a giant wolf when provoked enough (*rolls eyes*).
Luckily, a majority of the gore presented in the movie is done practically by the effects maestro and genre vet himself, Rick Baker. Expect loads of severed limbs and lots of clawing and biting to occur among various innocents as the wolfman terrorizes the townspeople (awesome!). I also loved the look of the movie, from the period sets, moody fog, and the many dark and eerie scenes it had to offer. This, added with composer Danny Elfman's haunting music, really fit together perfectly.
The flick is still not without its fault and sadly there are quite a few here -- being such great actors you'd expect Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Hugo Weaving to show off some excellent performances on-screen, but they're not given anything to work with! The script is void of any proper character development or dialogue and Hopkins isn't used as well as he could've been and seemed to only exist to further some scenes. Hugo on the other hand was probably my favorite from the bunch, even outshining Benicio (when he's not in wolf form anyway).
There's also supposed to be some sort of romance between Benicio and Emily Blunt's character, but it's hard to find it believable when the woman just lost her fiancée weeks prior and we're not given enough scenes with the two leads together to even care enough for anything to happen anyway. The movie also missed any potentially tense or suspenseful moments that would have worked well with the great look and mood of certain given scenes.
Wolfman is an entertaining flick that delivers the goods in certain areas, while falling short in others. Whether you like the movie in the end will likely be determined by how you approach it from the beginning -- if you're expecting a smart thriller or something to think about, then you won't find that here, but if you're like me and just want a vicious and bloody no-brainer werewolf flick, then you'll probably end up enjoying it.
Wolfman is an entertaining flick that delivers the goods in certain areas, while falling short in others. Whether you like the movie in the end will likely be determined on how you approached it from the beginning -- if you're expecting a smart thriller or a film with something to think about then you won't find that here, but if you're like me, and just wanted a vicious and bloody no-brainer werewolf flick, then you'll probably end up enjoying it.