Theatrical review: The Wolfman

All bark and no bite.

thewolfman18

2

Certificate: 15
Director: Joe Johnston
Screenwriters: Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self, Curt Siodmak (original)
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt
Distributor: Universal
Running Time: 125 mins

Monster movies used to be a staple of the cinemagoing experience, decades ago. With Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr and other aficionados of the unseemly, the horror genre witnessed a burst of popularity that it hasn’t managed to replicate since. Now, with this remake of the classic Wolfman film, it is trying to recapture that same spirit but sadly falls far short.

The story sees American actor Lawrence Talbot (del Toro) return to his estranged family estate upon learning of the death of his brother from his bereaved fiance, Gwen Conliffe (Blunt). After being attacked by a savage creature however, he undergoes shocking changes himself, and it falls to Inspector Aberline (Weaving) to solve the mystery and stop Talbot once and for all.

Director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, The Rocketeer) has clearly spent a great deal of time with his camera crew attempting to imbue this film with mood and presence. In this, they succeed. The colour palette is lusciously vintage, and the lighting in almost all of the shots is absolutely superb. The visual effects, as well, pay homage to the original by being cognizant of their origins without being obsequious. Unfortunately, this is about all that is worth seeing in The Wolfman. Blunt and Hopkins give performances that are about as nuanced as a bulldozer, while the central romance of the script fails to make any sense or become in any way something that can be invested in by the audience. Weaving seems to be the only actor who truly understands how the roles should be played here, giving a mix of mirth, camp and drama in his role as an inspector who failed to solve the Jack The Ripper cases, and now obsessively follows this one.

Indeed, the two strongest players in the cast, del Toro and Weaving, seem to be at odds as to what kind of film this is. Del Toro gives a reserved, disciplined performance as the agonised Talbot, but it would be far more at home in a film that focused on the psychological ramifications of his lycanthropy, as opposed to one that eroticises severed limbs and splayed internal organs. Odd directorial choices abound on the part of Johnston as well, with some of his action incomprehensible on screen and other scenes littered with strange and disconcerting fast cuts. There is one set piece of note however, when the creature attacks a gypsy camp, but that can’t save this film from being overwhelmingly stultifying for much of its runtime.

The Wolfman attempts to recapture the old school feel of monster movies, but ends up coming across as a film that was patched together by a group of people with very different ideas of what they wanted from it. The visuals, however, are its saving grace.