What has sharp fangs, ruffled hair, a mean disposition, a craving for fresh meat and an accent?
No I am not talking about a British cougar who just caught a glimpse of Robert Pattison.
I am talking about Universal’s latest attempt to put some juice back into their long dormant monster franchise.
Ever since the hugely popular Mummy trilogy rocked the box office. Universal has tried to bring life back to its classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc.
Everyone of their classic monsters has some sort of development attached to it. I can’t imagine the money that has been flushed down the toilet trying to find new ways to make these monsters live again. To quote Dr Frankenstein, “It’s alive!” Well not quite!
A couple months back I took us down memory lane with a review of the classic Wolf Man movie. So I thought it was relevant that I chime in to talk about the remake.
Benecio Del Toro takes over the role of Lawrence Talbot from Lon Chaney Jr. The movie begins like the original with Lawrence returning to his family estate after a death of his brother. There he is reunited with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins). He swears to his brother’s widow (Emily Blunt) that he will find his brother’s killer and find out what happened.
He follows leads to a gypsy fortune teller who tells him a family curse as a beast starts to rip the camp apart. Lawrence confronts the beast and is bitten. Barely surviving, Lawrence awakens back at the estate. His father tells him more about the werewolf curse saying, “you have done things Lawrence, evil things!” Lawrence Talbot is THE WOLF MAN.
The movie is about the same as the original until the film’s first twist. I’ll explore the contrast further down in my spoiler section but for now I will review the film on its own merits.
If you love werewolf movies and the mythos around them then you will love this movie. You’ll see all the scenes that pay homage older werewolf movies like the infamous scene from American Werewolf in London where the werewolf runs through central London causing a bus crash.
The performances from De Toro and Blunt are brilliant but Hopkins just hams it up. Hopkins is so uneven it’s embarrassing in places. The love story between Del Toro and Blunt is really pushed and you can totally see which scenes were reshot to amp up their relationship. You know you have to play to the whole vampire romance angle even if we are talking werewolf. Everyone loves a tragic romance.
The effects are done by Rick Baker who did the werewolf in American Werewolf in London, which was one of his earliest movies. He also did the werewolves in The Howling, Jack Nicholson’s Wolf and the TV series Werewolf. This guy knows werewolves and once again he does a frightening transformation and a wicked ass Wolf Man.
Probably my favorite scene is when Talbot is sent to a mental institution and the psychologists try to tell him he’s crazy and he is acting out. They chain him to a chair and wheel him into a lecture hall where they talk about him as an experiment as the full moon blooms. Talbot changes and attacks the shrinks. It is a brilliant, brutal and fantastic scene. It kind of reminded me of a cross between of Dr Jekyll and Bruce Banner before they turn into their alter egos. I was just waiting for the line “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I am angry.”
Wolf Man is a fun R-Rated werewolf movie that drags in places and definitely shows its growing pains and yes all the infamous problems with the movie’s production are visible. But I have to hand it to director Joe Johnston the terror he brought to Jurassic Park 3 is all over this movie and some scenes play really, really well.
In the original Wolf Man, Talbot’s father is not a werewolf, there is no inspector/Van Helsing type character (played by Hugo Weaving in the remake) and widow of his brother. Instead the father character believes his son is an abomination and joins the villagers by hunting down his son. In the film’s final scene the father clubs his son to death with a silver cane. The original ending was kind of unsatisfactory but the father’s motivations make a lot more sense than the nonsense that Hopkins peddles in the remake.
Original: 4.5 out of 5
Remake: 3 out of 5
Top 10 Werewolf Movies of All Time
Note: This list doesn’t include team-ups with other monsters (ie: Twilight & other Universal classics)
1. American Werewolf in London
2. The Wolf Man
3. Ginger Snaps (must see!)
4. Brotherhood of the Wolf (must see!)
5. Company of Wolves (must see!)
6. The Curse of Werewolf
7. The Howling
8. Silver Bullet
10. The Wolf Man (2010)
So Says the Soothsayer.