Film Reviews

THE WOLFMAN

By • Feb 22nd, 2010 •

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The Wolfman is not a teen, thank the Hollywood god in charge of movie icons, but Del Toro’s god-awful wig was scarier than the gorefest!

As most of you, I am too young to have seen Lon Chaney Jr’s 1941 original (in the theater or on TV). So let’s just ignore comparisons and focus on this film. This is the version you will pay $10.50 a ticket (in Las Vegas) to see.

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to England and the familial country estate, Blackmoor, to investigate the details surrounding the death of his younger brother. His father, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), is a distant, aloof man. Lawrence’s mother’s ugly death, which he witnessed as a young boy, sent him into a depression. He was summarily sent to America to live with an aunt. Abandoned by both parents and sent away, he’s sure to have some psychological issues.

Was he busy murdering in Whitechapel?

Hence the lack of an aristocratic English accent (If only Benicio had used the incoherent, unintelligible speech pattern of his iconic character, Fred Fenster).

Talbot has lost contact with his father but is famous in America as a stage actor – a profession his father ridicules. Talbot’s return to investigate his brother’s death is a surprise, since he seems to know nothing about his father’s predilections around full moons or his brother’s life and fiancé, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt).

Apparently Talbot’s brother knew nothing of the werewolf roaming the countryside though he lived his whole life with his father. So when the werewolf goes on a rampage, he goes out looking for the monster and is brutally killed.

Talbot is told by Sir John to stay inside. If you are advised not to go out in the woods during a full moon and you go anyhow, whatever happens is your fault. You were warned. Talbot gets bitten by the bloodthirsty werewolf and the country folk see it.

This werewolf has been in their mist for decades. Once hidden away, the werewolf now lets his “freak flag fly”.

It’s best to keep the twists as a surprise and reveal that the production is quite good. I loved that the castle-house is unkempt and dirty. Sir John’s life-long manservant, Singh (Art Malik), knows about the machinations of the werewolf but doesn’t bother telling Talbot to watch out. He keeps the family’s secrets but the silver bullets polished.

The primal eldest son supplanting his father is the thematic premise of THE WOLFMAN – though Talbot is reluctant to do it once he understands the situation.

(Some scholars theorize that Jesus Christ as the Son of God defeated the Hebrew god Jahve – the volcano-god. The original character of this God: “he is an uncanny, bloodthirsty demon who walks by night and shuns the light of day.” “Moses and Monotheism” by Sigmund Freud.)

Director Joe Johnston does Del Toro no favors but it is visually stunning and the gory tearing apart of body parts is well done. Yes, I screamed several times and hid my eyes. And so is the showdown between Talbot and Sir John. I thought the storyline was, if not original, clever and interesting nonetheless.

The script by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self never explains why Talbot is so glum. Is he still depressed? Why the grudge against his father? And what about “lifting” the curse by love? If Sir John’s obsession with Gwen is integral to the development of the story, how come we never saw it?

Del Toro wanted to do this movie for a long time, but perhaps the negotiations overwhelmed the work on his character. Lawrence Talbot is weak and confused. He’s awkward with women – Gwen – and shows no insight into the nasty character of his father.

Hopkins enjoys playing evil and he’s free here to do whatever he wants without bothering to be directed. Blunt is all pent-up sexual repression on the brink of having sex with anyone, even the wolfman.

With the wolfman showing himself and chewing up the villagers, there was no way to end the tale except as done here. However, there is a sequel to be delivered and I for one say, yes. As long as it is not The Teen Son of the Wolfman.

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