Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Wolfman (2010)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

After his brother’s brutal death, famed stage actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns to his hometown for the funeral. Lawrence befriends his brother’s fiancee, Gwen (Emily Blunt), but Lawrence isn’t too happy about a reunion with his father. Living in Lawrence’s childhood home with Singh (Art Malik) as his bodyguard, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) provides housing for Emily, and Sir Talbot is surprised by the unexpected visit from his “prodigal son.”

Lawrence tires to block out memories of a dark past, including the tragic death of his mother during childhood, but Lawrence is forced to deal with bigger problems after viewing his brother’s mangled corpse. Local residents fear the realistic possibility of werewolf attacks, so Lawrence visits a gypsy village for more answers. During Lawrence’s visit, the village is attacked by a werewolf. Lawrence pursues the werewolf in the woods with a rifle, but the werewolf gains the upper hand during the chase, and Lawrence suffers a bite to the neck.

Lawrence recovers from his injuries after some help from residents at the gypsy village, but Lawrence experiences some abnormal changes during his rehabilitation period. Lawrence can’t escape the light from full moons and the inevitable transformations afterwards, so one night, a group of townspeople set a trap for Lawrence with a deer as live bait. But the townspeople’s mission to capture Lawrence fails, after Lawrence escapes the trap.

After the massacre, Lawrence leaves a bloody trail of evidence for Inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving), a top man at Scotland Yard, with an esteemed reputation. Lawrence is the prime suspect in Inspector Aberline’s investigation, and Lawrence fears for a returning Gwen’s safety……….

Del Toro receives the most screen time here, but I give the nod to Anthony Hopkins for the best performance. Hopkins is spot on as this eccentric and unapologetic old man with a dark sense of humor, and Hopkins shows us a more devilish side (more on that later) towards the end. I’m not trying to undercut Del Toro, because he’s a solid leading man here, but Hopkins upstages him (especially during their scenes together), and it’s not even close. Emily Blunt is believably sympathetic and innocent as Gwen, and Hugo Weaving is a nice fit for the distinguished and stern authority figure.

Lawrence is haunted by his mother’s death, and the inescapable image of seeing  her bloodied corpse as a child……but Lawrence’s mother didn’t commit suicide. Throughout his life, Lawrence was lead to believe his mother slit her throat with a straight edge razor, but that’s not the truth. Instead, Lawrence’s mother was murdered by a werewolf: Sir John Talbot. That’s right. During a hunting trip, Sir John was bitten by a feral boy. The boy passed the curse of a werewolf, and Sir John is the werewolf, who murdered Ben (his second son and Lawrence’s brother).

Sir John reveals everything to an imprisoned Lawrence (Lawrence is being held captive in an asylum after recent attacks as a werewolf). Enraged and disgusted, Lawrence asks Sir John to commit suicide for a self-inflicted and deserved punishment, but Sir John refuses, because life as a werewolf is too “glorious.” And Sir John offers Lawrence a solution for his werewolf problems with a straight edge razor as a gift.

Eh, I’m sorry, but if they were trying to use Sir John Talbot as a werewolf for the major shocker, they failed miserably. First of all, the foreshadowing is way too obvious. You can easily see there’s something off about Sir John Talbot. He’s this creepy old reclusive guy with an attitude problem, and there’s a telling scene with Hopkins and Blunt. Gwen is on the staircase, and she runs into Sir John. He’s standing there eating an apple with this cold and mischievous look on his face, and Gwen speaks to him, but Sir John refuses to answer. Yeah, if you’re trying to pull off a SHOCKER, you should be more subtle with dropping hints every now and then.

The final battle between werewolf Lawrence and werewolf Sir John is anticlimactic. They’re fighting together in Sir John’s burning house, and for the final blow(s), Lawrence kicks Sir John into the fireplace. A frantic and flaming Sir John emerges from the fireplace, giving Lawrence the chance to knock his head off with one swipe. In the woods, Gwen is forced to kill Lawrence with a shot to the chest after a struggle, and we’re left with a little cliffhanger, because Lawrence bit Inspector Aberline. Talbot manor is engulfed in flames, and we hear one last howl from another werewolf to close out the movie.

A deflating series of events for a few reasons. For starters, Sir John’s beheading wasn’t shocking, because The Wolfman gave away a similar kill before this scene. Second, Lawrence’s slaughter of the townspeople during the whole failed trap fiasco was more fun to watch. When a throwaway scene is more entertaining than your final showdown, you’re in trouble. And the tragic series of events (Talbot manor burning to the ground, Gwen killing Lawrence, etc.) during the finale didn’t do anything for me. The underwhelming fight between Lawrence and Sir John didn’t help, and Gwen killing Lawrence was too predictable. Again, the obvious foreshadowing (Gwen’s chat with the gypsy, who took care of Lawrence after the attack) is a big problem, because death was Lawrence‘s only shot at freedom.

Pay close attention to the transformations in The Wolfman, and you’ll be able to see why this film won the Academy Award for Best Makeup in 2010. Sir John and Lawrence are genuinely intimidating in their werewolf forms, and Lawrence’s transformations are painful to watch.

Usually, you’ll get a “Wow! That’s cool. I wish I could do that!” feeling after witnessing a werewolf transformation in a movie. Well, The Wolfman should change your mind with an “OUCH! That’s gotta hurt!” reaction. During Lawrence’s transformations, you’ll see a lot of stretched contortions with bones pushing up against the skin, and you’ll clearly see Lawrence’s bloody gums, as his fangs come through during a scene at the asylum. The Wolfman doesn’t rely on a lot of flashy CGI to get the job done, and it’s a refreshing change.

Still, The Wolfman is a disappointing horror remake. There’s enough nasty and bloody gore for horror fans, who love gruesomeness, and The Wolfman features a handful of spooky atmospherics. But the screenplay is tepid at best, The Wolfman is void of any true scares, and the unsatisfying reveal towards the end sucks the life out of everything. Really? I had to wait for this? That’s the best way to describe my reaction for the lukewarm confession.

With all that said, The Wolfman doesn’t deserve a spot in the top three worst horror remakes of all time. The Wolfman was panned by a lot of critics, and the vast majority of horror fans still hate this film with a burning, white hot passion. On top of that, director Joe Johnston issued a public apology for The Wolfman a few years ago.

Is The Wolfman a good film? No. No it’s not, and the 1941 classic is still superior by a long shot, but the excessive bashing is unnecessary. Do you remember A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010), Sorority Row (2009), The Omen (2006), and The Hitcher (2007)? Yeah, they’re all abominable train wrecks, and when it comes to failed horror remakes, each film is worse than The Wolfman. Bottom line, I’ll always remember The Wolfman as a misfire, but it’s not a smoldering and unwatchable mess, and The Wolfman doesn’t deserve so much hate.

Rating: 4/10

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