Old 02-20-2010, 11:23 AM
Joe Johnston's The Wolfman

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



The Wolfman (2010)

Nearly 70 years after the original film in which Lon Chaney Jr. played the titular character comes a remake of the classic story. Joe Johnston's version of the film has painstakingly recreated the time period the story takes place in. It has the look, it has the feel, but it is curiously lacking in substance, and not only that. For a thriller, it doesn't really have any thrills to it.

The story begins as Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) arrives home after hearing that something has happened to his brother, Ben. When he arrives, his father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), tells him that Ben has died from being attacked. Upon examining the body, Lawrence sees that it looks as though a beast of some sort had killed his brother. There are superstitions in the village of a werewolf attacking people when the moon is full, but Lawrence goes out anyway to investigate a band of gypsies that are also under suspicion.

While trying to question them, a werewolf attacks the encampment, leaving several dead and Lawrence injured. Everyone is suspicious of Lawrence and what will become of him after having survived the beast's attack. We soon find out that when the moon is full, Lawrence changes into a werewolf himself, wreaking havoc on those around him. Now it's up to an officer from Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving) and Ben's former fiancee, Gwen (Emily Blunt), to find a way to stop him.

The authenticity of the film is quite stunning. The sets, the props, the costumes, all come together to give the film the look of 19th century Europe. Most of it even seems to have been lit by candlelight to complete the atmosphere of impending doom. It's fair to say that a good amount of this story is atmosphere and foreboding, but when it ends up not delivering on the story level, it becomes something of a disappointment.

Most of the film feels as though it spends too much time brooding over what's happening and what is to come. So much so that it seems to forget about allowing the story to move forward. There are times when the story feels like it just pauses as pointless conversations take place, especially between Lawrence and Gwen.

There's is a relationship that is never developed very far. The film tries to get it across that they are falling in love, but we never get a true sense of it, mainly due to the short time that they have been together. Since we never really believe their relationship, the ending scene ends up having much less of an impact than it should have had.

There are some things to admire about the film other than its authentic look. The special effects and makeup are excellent. We get several obligatory scene of Del Toro turning into the wolfman that are very well done and makeup wizard Rick Baker does an incredibly detailed job putting together a hideous creature.

So why doesn't the film come across as more thrilling? Perhaps because of the underdeveloped story and characters. Possibly because it seemed like Del Toro and Hopkins, both Academy Award winners, were both phoning in their performances, not really putting any effort into their characters. Maybe it's simply because you can only watch so many people be ripped apart by a beast before it becomes too repetitive. Some of this film is enjoyable simply for its atmosphere alone. Just don't be expecting an incredibly engaging story to go along with it. 2.5/4 stars.
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