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Movie Review

The Wolfman

The Wolfman
For those wondering where Joe Johnston would take his re-imagining of 1941's "The Wolf Man," the answer comes early. "The Wolfman" (one word, like Batman or Darkman) opens with a guy waving a lantern around a Victorian-era English wood, his onscreen life lasting just long enough for him to shout, "I know you're out there," before being promptly disemboweled. Johnston, directing from a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, is serious about gore. Sadly, that appears to be all he's serious about. Treating story as an unhappy chore to be rushed through—like foreplay or washing the dishes—Johnston wastes no time bringing Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) home to the creepy estate of his equally creepy father (Anthony Hopkins). There, Lawrence attends the funeral of his little brother—revealed in that first scene to be a man of real guts—and falls on cue for the dead man's sweetheart (Emily Blunt). Then he gets bitten by a werewolf—and if history has taught us one thing, we know what happens next. Full moon–triggered bloodbaths follow, each one loud and grisly enough to command even a torture porn–era audience's attention.

But Johnston shows little love for any aspect of werewolf movie–making that doesn't involve bodies being chewed on, ripped open, impaled, or otherwise mutilated. Twice—twice!—he takes giddy pleasure in slowing the action down just before Del Toro's Wolfman punches an enemy's head clear off his body. The violence comes fast and often, and it would be naive not to expect so much of it in this century, when Hollywood wants to do nothing more than tell grimmer and grittier versions of the stories it told in the last century. But Johnston's aesthetic is borrowed and tired, a blue-and-gray-toned gothic setting splattered with bursts of scarlet. Worse yet, he wastes good actors. Del Toro's performance may be the most vanilla he's ever conjured, though it's hard to blame him for it. He's given nothing to work with besides lifeless dialogue, a Swiss-cheese plot, and a Lon Chaney costume. Blunt fares no better, forced to spend all but the film's last five minutes doing nothing but standing very still in her corset. Hopkins just seems amused to be there and happy to be getting paid.

The only bright spot is Hugo Weaving, who wrings every possible bit of camp fun from his no-bull Scotland Yard detective—a minor miracle, as there seems to be so little of said fun in the script. Watching Weaving, you get the feeling that he recognized the catastrophe happening around him and decided to take matters into his own hands. If only his cast mates had done the same.

Genre: Action.
Written by: Kevin Walker, David Self.
Directed by: Joe Johnston.
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving.

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