…directed by Joe Johnston, written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt. Yes, it’s another remake from the land of remakes, but this time it’s the Lon Chaney Jr. Universal classic, The Wolfman getting the treatment. With Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot and Hopkins as his father, Sir John, this latest version boasts some serious acting talent. It also features impressive staging of scene and place as the director creates another great looking version of the 19th century English Countryside and London. With the fog machine in turbo and a selective dark color palette, Joe Johnston recreates the creepy feel of many of those early monster movies (and he does so without it becoming a schtick – no small feat).
So you have excellent actors and a great-looking film. You also have a story and plot that’s remarkably similar to the 1941 version. Lawrence Talbot comes home to Blackmoor England to investigate the death of his brother. He gets bitten by a werewolf and falls for his dead brother’s fiance. He figures out what’s happening to him, commits mayhem in his furry form, and wrestles with selfish vs. selfless tendencies. It’s the classic werewolf movie plot. Sure, there are some new twists in this version, but if you’re expecting some kind of contemporary examination on the curse of the werewolf, you should probably stick with Wolf or (better yet) Teen Wolf.
The Wolfman has taken some heat for this very reason, which is what I don’t understand. You can’t take every movie (especially a period piece) and turn it into some sort of half-assed postmodern meditation. Werewolves were once scary, brutal creatures of legend; in a good horror movie such as this one, that’s how they operate. Recent turns in Hollywood have made werewolves funny, benign, and (thanks again, Twilight) the objects of teenage girl-lust. So it’s good to see an honest take on the werewolf from a big Hollywood studio.
This movie is meant as a horror movie, and it employs the conventions – blood and gore, suspense, romance, gotcha moments – to good effect. The actual werewolf is homage to the man-wolf of Lon Chaney Jr. as opposed to more recent wolfish incarnations and is plenty scary. Whether or not you like this movie probably depends on whether you can get into the setting and how (or even if) you like your horror. For me, a werewolf fan from about age ten, it’s a welcome departure to the classic feel of horror films