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Saturday, February 13, 2010

THE WOLF MAN (2010)

So I saw the eagerly-awaited remake of THE WOLF MAN and I have to agree with Mindless Kirby's assessment, although I certainly didn't hate it like he did. I consider it to be little more than a particularly stodgy, sumptuously-shot MASTERPIECE THEATER installment that happens to have werewolves and gory graphic violence (which was easily the best thing about the film). That's all you really need to know, especially if you're familiar with the basic plot of the 1941 original. I'm not going to bother with a recap of the story, except to say that it's the standard tragic werewolf yarn, tarted up with CGI, so here are the pertinent points, both good and bad:
  • IT'S DULL. The film has a look and feel that simply screams "period piece" and makes you wonder when the PBS pledge break is going to interrupt the proceedings. The pacing for the first half is turgid and the movie does not come to life until the protagonist visits a gypsy camp in search of answers. The only times the film really kicks into any kind of gear is when the werewolf does his thing, which amounts to a total of less than fifteen minutes.
  • IT ISN'T SCARY. When a horror film doesn't provide either suspense or scares, there's a problem.
  • ANTHONY HOPKINS PHONES IT IN. The former Hannibal Lecter practically sleepwalks through his performance and even shifts to a completely different accent at one point, eliciting giggles from the matinee crowd. He quite obviously was only there for the paycheck.
  • BENICIO DEL TORO IS SYMPATHETIC, BUT KINDA OUT OF IT. As Lawrence Talbot, Del Toro affects the same hangdog demeanor as Lon Chaney Jr. did in the original and we do care about him to an extent, but what is meant to convey tragic intensity instead comes off as being whacked-out on Quaaludes.
  • IT'S ALL ABOUT "DADDY ISSUES." The whole film is more about Talbot's deep and well-founded issues with his father than anything else, and once we've twigged to that the story enters allegorical "After-School Special" territory.
  • WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO RICK BAKER? Makeup groundbreaker Rick Baker heads the makeup team and comes up with werewolf suits that, while well-crafted, bear a striking resemblance to high-end Halloween costumes. Considering his past dabblings into the lupine, I expected a whole lot better in terms of realism, but I do like the designs.
  • AN ANNOYING OVER-RELIANCE ON CGI. As I feared, the CGI effects tend to overwhelm the practical effects, and they are painfully obvious to spot. The worst offenders are a digitally-rendered bear and stag that look wholly unnatural to anyone who's ever seen a nature special.
  • DANNY ELFMAN MUST BE STOPPED. The former genius of Oingo Boingo returns with yet anther of his many sound-alike scores. Enough with this guy, already!
  • IT'S RATED "R" FOR A REASON. In this pussified movie climate, it's good to receive a horror film that gives us monster scenes replete with shit that would never fly in a PG-13 flick. Now if only there'd been some nudity or a scene of the werewolf getting his hump on...
  • THE SCENES OF WEREWOLF VIOLENCE ARE EXCELLENT. Any time there's a werewolf onscreen engaging in anti-social activity, the film is worth sitting through. The sequences in the gypsy camp and the London asylum will go down as classics, and there is plenty of gore on hand. I'd read that this was a troubled production and that Rick Baker was called in to add more "goodies" to the mix, so I can't imagine what this film would have been like without its high level of blood, guts and savage decapitations.
  • THE FEMALE LEAD SERVES VIRTUALLY NO PURPOSE TO THE NARRATIVE. Emily Blunt's role is one of the most thankless in recent memory and her character would have been totally unnecessary if the plot did not require her to fall in love with the cursed protagonist.
  • IT'S LEFT WIDE-OPEN FOR A SEQUEL. This was totally expected, but after the rest of the film I could not care less if a sequel comes to pass.
So what we have here is a pretty-to-look-at lycanthropic costume drama with some decent gore/violence and zero scares. The audience I saw it with was quite obviously not satisfied with what they got, and for the first time since I cannot remember when, over half of the audience had gotten up and walked out before the final reel. Seriously, people just got the fuck up and walked out in droves. With that in mind, I strongly advise you to wait for cable or give it a miss entirely, unless you are a die-hard werewolf groupie like me. And even as a sworn, lifelong werewolf supporter, I doubt I'll be sitting through this one again. TRUST YER BUNCHE and stick with the 1941 original, and you won't go wrong.

6 comments:

Mindlesskirby said...

I remember hearing the Danny Elfman left working on this movie and Paul Haslinger took over. Then Elfman came back and they fired Haslinger. Fanboys rejoiced and now the music sucked.

Xtina said...

I was hoping you'd love it, but I trust my Bunche. I may see it anyway for the blood and guts scenes (on cable tv). You are such a great critic, why aren't you famous like Roger Ebert and his sidekick? By the way, that picture of the Werewolf reminds me of that poster that was in Ace Bar. Remember those days?

Kevie said...

How do they manage to do this? How do you have Benicio Del Toro, Rick Baker, and the Wolf Man franchise, and somehow fuck it up? Huh? HOW???

Bunche said...

If you ask me, this looks like a case of a studio-mandated remake in hope of resurrecting the Universal stable of monsters; an admirable goal, but not worth a squirt of rat's piss if you don't have a good script and offer no scares in what's supposed to be a horror movie. And I should also note that the director of THE WOLF MAN is the dude who's helming CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. A dull Cap movie is something that should never be (again), so I hope that flick gets some careful going-over before it's released...

Kevie said...

Yeah, I have great reservations about Marvel's new movie pantheon, and the planned convergence into an Avengers franchise. They hit the sweet spot with "Iron Man" due to a great mix of talent, but if they think they can keep replicating that success they're out of their minds, "The Incredible Hulk" being exhibit A.

joelmead said...

Hopkins has been consistently awful for many years now so his consistency continues in The Wolfman. I agree with your review in the main. It was a pretty looking film but a little bit uninengaging.