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The Wolfman (2010) *1/2

February 12, 2010

Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self

Produced by: Sean Daniel, Benecio Del Toro, Scott Stuber, and Rick Yorn

Directed by: Joe Johnston

Rated R for bloody horror violence and gore

125 min.

U.S. Release Date: February 12, 2010

For the past several months, throughout the marketing campaign for Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman”, red flags kept going up in my mind.  First of all, this type of film isn’t exactly Johnston’s cup of tea.  He is responsible for directing such films as “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “Jumanji”, “October Sky”, and “Hidalgo”; none of which are bad films, but none of these should nominate a director to take on one of Hollywood’s biggest horror properties.  Secondly, Anthony Hopkins looks absolutely dreadful in the trailer, and if an actor looks ridiculous in a trailer, you should assume that trend continues in the film.  Finally, and the biggest red flag of all, is that the film’s release date kept getting pushed back (first posters for this film had it coming out in February of 2009!).  As a member of the movie going public you should know that when the studios tinker with a film’s release date too much, it is because they don’t know how to market it, or there are major problems occurring in the editing room.

All of these flags went up, yet I proceeded to purchase a ticket for the midnight screening.  Bad move.

The story focuses on English nobleman turned U.S. stage actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro).  Lawrence is summoned back to his family estate after the mysterious disappearance of his brother Ben.  Set primarily at the Talbot estate, in a small English town called Blackmoor, Lawrence must confront his crazy reclusive father along with the rest of his haunted past as he attempts to figure out what happened to his brother.  As Lawrence learns of a creature that haunts the Blackmoor woods, he also learns that the truth to this mystery lays closer to home than he might have expected.

From the opening minutes of the film, it all just seems like a terrible mistake.  We see a gruesome scene of some wolfman-on-human violence, at which point a full screen CGI gravestone slams down on the screen with the title engraved in it (followed by some canned shrieking sound effects).  At that point I wondered if the entirety of this movie was going to be a wink to the audience, and we would all be in on the “cheesy horror film” joke.  No such luck.  The rest of the movie is a laughable mess in which there was no redemption.  You, as the audience, are not meant to root for the wolfman per se, but at the same time, you will be so starved for any form of action after what seems like hours of boredom, you will be ready for the wolfman to tear Blackmoor apart!

A good film starts with a good screenplay, and “The Wolfman” definitely didn’t have it.  We have all seen Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Emily Blunt in good projects before, so it shines an even brighter light on the terrible screenwriting.  Can someone please tell me where in England citizens use miles to measure distance?  Also, the screenwriters must have had Anthony Hopkins in mind and must have been watching “The Edge” while they wrote, because Hopkins’s lines were atrocious.  Just watch Hopkins in the trailers and know you’ll be getting 2 painful hours of the same junk.

After all the negativity, I should point out something good about “The Wolfman”.  The nighttime cinematography in this movie is fantastic.  Since all of the wolfman action takes place at night, the film needs to have strong visuals during these scenes in order for the audience to stay engaged (if they haven’t already left the theatre!).  Cinematographer Shelly Johnson illuminates the nighttime Blackmoor woods with a stylish look reminiscent of the original “The Wolf Man”.  There were also very fun gore sequences, which led to Blackmoor investigators’ limbs being strewn about the woods.  Unfortunately that is about all the good I have.

If you must watch a film about a hybrid man-wolf terrorizing a small town with your valentine, check out the 1941 version “The Wolf Man” or Michael J. Fox’s stunning interpretation of the youthful werewolf in high school in “Teen Wolf”.  When approaching Joe Johnston’s “The Wolfman”, obey to the red flags and back away slowly.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    February 12, 2010 10:40 am

    I saw the previews for this somewhere, and I remember thinking as I watched it, that it looked like it was going to be a horribly cheesy movie. I put the mental red x next to that preview! LOL

    Too bad, I like a movie like that; but good ones are few and far in between…..

  2. Rick Heath permalink
    February 13, 2010 1:14 pm

    Paul pens poignant and to-the-point prose in this recap of The Wolfman. A film in which Benicio Del Toro portrays an Englishman seems laughable enough (not to mention his ‘eery’ resemblance to Buster Poindexter in the article’s photo). Thank you for the warning and the alternative suggestions – Teen Wolf, in particular. (I’d steer clear, however, of Teen Wolf Too starring Jason Bateman, as this film – much like The Experts starring John Travolta – does not coincide with his relatively recent resurgence in relevance.

    • February 13, 2010 2:08 pm

      Did you get an assignment to write alliterations? Very flowy writing, Rick.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      February 15, 2010 11:48 am

      Oh man, Poindexter woulda been so great, or better yet Tom Waits!

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