- Vishaal Desai
'THE WOLFMAN' (2010)
Directed by - Joe Johnston
Written by - Andrew Kevin Walker & David Self
Based on the 1941 Screenplay 'The Wolfman' by Curt Siodmak
WARNING: SPOILERS ahead!
Joe Johnston's 'The Wolfman' is a clear representation of a film industry that is afraid of breaking the mold of perceived 'audience expectations' and box-office intakes to promote originality. Barring a few exceptions, the agonizing trend of endless Prequels, Remakes and Adaptations have continued to hamper the advent of purely original stories.
'The Wolfman' is just another outcome of this obsession with recycling existing material. Now, the original version of this film was one amongst several dozen 'Monster Films' produced by Universal Studios during the 1930's, 40's and early 50's with films such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera and the Mummy. A classic from 1941, 'The Wolf Man' holds up even today due to it's fear inducing atmosphere, scenes filled with sheer tension and a frightening performance from Lon Chaney Jr. It was one of the earliest films to depict the condition of Lycanthropy (the ability to transform from Human to Wolf) and is more than likely responsible for the popularity of Werewolves amongst generations of horror fans.
Lon Chaney Jr. as the original Wolf Man
Coming back to the remake, at first glance, 'The Wolfman' is not a terrible film and I will admit that the trailer had me intrigued, perhaps even a little excited. From the outset, what stands out the most, both in the trailer and in the film itself is the atmosphere - dark, dank and mysterious. What the trailer promised was tension reminiscent of the original, through character and immense detail and to an extent the film delivered on these points. The sets are stark and exude eeriness; the cinematography is on the money, at times paying homage with classic throwbacks such as the shot where the Werewolf is howling on a rooftop with the moon shining in the background. The house that portrays Talbot Manor is a character all on its own, again teeming with detail.
Unfortunately that's where the positives end. For all the effort that has gone into creating the atmosphere to draw us into the world of 1890's Blackmoor, a paltry, simplistic script and unconvincing performances throws us out, making the characters rather un-relatable and leaving us cold and unaffected by their plight.
The core of the film is the relationship between Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) a.k.a The Wolfman and his father John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins), which represents the dilemma of the protagonist, while at the same time unraveling the mystery of the film. It appears as if the writer and director have been afraid to delve too deep into this aspect of the story and simply concentrated on the younger Lawrence's transformation and his struggle with it. As a result when the back-story between father and son is revealed, it comes across as incidental and rather than accentuate their respective character arcs, it does little more than serve the plot.
Benicio Del Toro delivers a lethargic performance at best and looks thoroughly bored for the most part. His metaphorical transformation from man to beast is unconvincing. Lawrence Talbot's realization of his transformed nature, which should ideally be deeply agonizing and beset with unadulterated, raw emotion, is woefully muted. Anthony Hopkins and Hugo Weaving do their bit to chew trhe scenery they are given. But while Weaving delivers a crisp, albeit underwhelming performance as the taut Inspector Fred Abberline, Hopkins gives us a mere caricature with a performance that is at times appears unintentionally comical. Emily Blunt, though a brilliant and promising actress is utterly wasted in the role of Gwen Conliffe - Lawrence's Sister-in-law to be. Although her character should play a pivotal role in the apparent redemption of the Wolfman, she is barely given sufficient screen time in order to affect any sort of character development. Ultimately her relationship with Lawrence, upon which the entire third act rests, feels rather meaningless.
As a horror film and as a monster movie, it fulfills certain obligations, while neglecting others. It provides us with quite a few scares, all of which are nothing more than cliched shock moments. Despite the detailed world building, the film lacks the ability to put real FEAR into the audience, resorting to cheap scare tactics and gruesome visuals.
As a whole, 'The Wolfman' is perhaps not much more than a way to pass a Saturday afternoon. It has a little entertainment value but no substance whatsoever and is a frustrating experience at large, particularly for those familiar with Universal's original endeavors into this arena.
VishRates - 1.5 / 5
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