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Wolfman Review #2

When comparing these critical scenes to their counterparts in such classics as An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, they are simply not in the same league.

The Wolfman

Directed by Joe Johnston

Joe Johnston walks into a bar and says: “Bartender, I’ve directed Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jurassic Park III and Hidalgo. I think that warrants a free drink.” The bartender turns around and shoots Joe’s head off with a shotgun. I didn’t say it was going to be funny.

Oh, how I wish something similar had actually happened a few years ago. Unfortunately, such malevolent desires are rarely fulfilled, and movies such as The Wolfman are still green-lit by studio executives.

While Benicio Del Toro, Hugo Weaving and Anthony Hopkins remain excellent actors in their own right, their combined efforts to save this sinking mess of a movie proved most futile. Not only is it an embarrassing remake of the 1941 original which bore the same name, but it is an insult to every man, woman and child who wastes his or her hard earned cash on this film.

You see, movies of this genre, in this day and age, are supposed to take advantage of modern visual effects, not make efforts to leave the most impressive parts on the cutting room floor. This is exactly what Johnston accomplishes during what could be the movie’s most imposing scenes: Del Toro’s transmogrification process.

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By cutting at rapid-fire speeds and limiting the process to 15 seconds or less, the audience is left in a daze, and it feels like Johnston wants to get to the killing as soon as possible. When comparing these critical scenes to their counterparts in such classics as An American Werewolf in London or The Howling, they are simply not in the same league. The end product is comical to say the least, as Del Toro resembles a man in some kind of makeshift gorilla suit. Besides the teeth and elongated fingers, there is very little semblance of a werewolf.

The decision to cast Del Toro (Laurence Talbot) in the first place is an intriguing one. I’ve always been against casting high-profile actors for these roles because as soon as they transform, they become unrecognizable and essentially forgotten by the audience. Therefore, it could be said that it doesn’t really matter who you’re casting, as long as the plot is distracting enough (in this case it really isn’t). Del Toro will most likely look back on this with a certain amount of shame, as his sub-par performance is somewhat of a low-point in an otherwise distinguished career. Here, he is somber and constantly mumbling, as if repeating his role of a recovering heroin addict in Things We Lost In The Fire. When there should be some kind of established sympathy for his character by the end of the movie, there is none, and in turn we realize how little character development there has been in the 80 or so minutes he has been on screen.

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Meanwhile, Weaving reprises his role of Mr. Smith from The Matrix as a detective from Scotland Yard with a slow, calculated speech. His goal is to find out exactly who, or what is killing all these villagers, and by George he’s going to do it. Hopkins plays Sir John Talbot, Laurence’s evil father with a secret past and easily the best performance in the movie. Fortunately for you, the rest aren’t worth mentioning.

The final insulting blow Johnston lands on his viewer is a series of belittling jump scares, many of which can be foreseen much in advance due to Danny Elfman’s lifeless, predictable score. Add to the mix Andrew Kevin Walker’s script, which harkens back to another similar period-film he wrote, Sleepy Hollow. What’s the deal with always having bumbling, clumsy villagers who trip on their own shoelaces, and who couldn’t shoot a stray cat if their lives depended on it? Please reply at the bottom of the page, Andrew.

Make note that The Wolfman is for hardcore lovers of this genre only, and that if you’re expecting anything more than an original plot and an intimidating werewolf, you’re going to be extremely disappointed. On the bright side, fans of the moon will be satisfied as for some reason, as Johnston chooses to show how bright and full it is every 3 minutes or so.

– Myles Dolphin