The Wolfman (2010)

After so recently spending time with the original Wolf Man, it’s hard to find much to love about the 2010 remake, The Wolfman (though in its defense the new title totally wins at using compound words). It certainly does greater justice to the mythical beast than you get with things like True Blood, the Underworld series and those Twilight movies, which I swear I will one day get drunk enough to watch. In the end Wolfman is a fairly faithful and stylish update of a time-honored classic, doused in liberal quantities of blood and severed limbs. Sadly most of the efforts to augment the original story just tend to clutter the landscape and the whole thing runs about twenty minutes too long.

The story: Unlike its 1940s predecessor, which took place in the era in which it was released, this Wolfman takes us all the way back to turn-of-the-century England. (Is it me or does Hollywood think a Victorian England setting automatically makes a movie spookier, like setting it in a thunderstorm, or putting a ventriloquist dummy in it?)

For reasons unknown the decision was made to make Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) an English-born America actor touring the London stage just when his estranged brother happens to go missing. He travels to his home village where his father, played by a more or less asleep Anthony Hopkins, informs him that his brother is already dead, found mutilated in a ditch the day before. Much like the original, this Lawrence gets all hot and bothered for Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt, who I absolutely cannot get enough of) despite her engagement to another man, this time Lawrence’s own recently deceased brother. Classy.

Lawrence tracks down the local gypsies to get some answers about who or what killed his brother but the creature suddenly attacks and rips loads of people apart. Rifle in hand, Lawrence chases after it – pretty brave for a guy whose career involves doing his own makeup and regularly wearing tights. Though the monster has the ability to rip out spines in the blink of an eye, Lawrence manages to survive an extended bout of neck chewing, albeit it with serious wounds. Interestingly (sort of) the monster gets away, so when Lawrence inevitably becomes a werewolf we know we’re going to be getting two beasties for the price of one.

Better cancel those piano lessons.

Biggest letdown: I’m a fan of Benicio Del Toro. He brings a palpable gravity to every role and he does soulful eyes like nobody’s business. In this movie, however, he’s either woefully under-directed or suffering from some sort of gastric disorder that makes it appear as though he’s painfully regurgitating every word. Not sure what that’s all about but the result is that most of his dialogue is tedious at best and sometimes downright terrible.

Why you should watch: As movie technology improves there’s always value in a big budget update of classic monsters and that holds true in Wolfman. Lawrence’s first transformation scene is just fantastic – we get slow, close-up views of various body parts gradually and painfully cracking and extending and for the first time I can recall we see the tortured man-beast bleeding and spitting blood as his body shifts. It’s a really nice touch. Also, despite adding yet another branch to a plot already in need of serious pruning, I rather enjoyed the addition of Hugo Weaving as Inspector Abberline, the real life Scotland Yard detective who investigated the Jack the Ripper killings. (According to Wikipedia, WHICH IS NEVER WRONG, Abberline didn’t really die in his 30s of a drug overdose. Someone should really add a section about his work on the Wolfman case, can’t believe they left that out.)

Stop calling me Larry!

Memorable Moment: To stretch the events of the film over two full moons instead of just one and thus make room for double the wolfing, the story takes an ill-advised and lengthy detour to a London asylum where a bunch of callous doctors attempt to treat Lawrence’s lycanthropy with ice baths and shock therapy. After a month’s worth of lackluster insanity montages, we finally get a gory little payoff when Lawrence is displayed before a gallery of physicians expecting to witness him realize that his fear of becoming a monster under the light of the full moon is baseless. It is not.

Choice quote: Seriously not a lot to work with here so let’s go with the introductory voice-over narration, quoting the famous refrain from the original: “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.”

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7 Responses to “The Wolfman (2010)”

  1. Natalie Kaire Says:

    I had the pleasure of seeing this movie IN THE THEATER with a bunch of TEENAGERS. The teens were the best part. Seriously! I agree with much of your assessment, Adam (Benicio broke my heart, too), EXCEPT I disagree that this film is 20 minutes too long… I’d say closer to 40 minutes… Perhaps even 90 minutes… This was a LONG movie, I remember that more vividly than much of the film. But, it does make me want to see the original. If you have a screening of the original, please let me know. I will be there.

  2. Bob McClure Says:

    It looks like strangely similar in style to Coppola’s Dracula in ’92…just with lots more hair. I’m a fan of the Howling series and notably, An American Werewolf in London. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Sphere…the adaptation from Michael Crichton’s novel.

  3. wow, wolfman in the theaters. next time just rent teen wolf. i plan to name my first born ‘stiles’, boy or girl.

    i enjoyed sphere way more than most, although my lazy ass never read the book. when queen latifah and peter coyote are the two most minor characters you know you’re dealing with a serious ensemble. drop them all in a no-way-out situation and you’re smack dab in the middle of my nerdy wheelhouse. love you guys!

  4. Just watched this last night and I fully agree with your evaluation. I love Benicio but there was something really off about his performance. The only redeeming quality for me was a) Emily Blunt’s amazing wardrobe (although most of the time, admittedly, I was just wishing I could have her life for a sec and be married to Jim Halpert) and b) the dark and gloomy but very beautiful cinematography. So pretty much I could have watched it on mute.

    One other negative–Josie bit me during the movie so I’m pretty sure I’m going to turn into a Dalmatian during the next full moon. Damn it!

    • dammit! there goes my idea for “curse of the were-dalmation”. i had a whole franchise in my head. “when the moon is full, she must lick her butt…”

  5. […] The Wolfman (2010) – Benicio Del Toro gets all Lon Chaney in England. I am unimpressed. […]

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