Wednesday 10 February 2010

Movie Reviews: The Wolfman

The Wolfman
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Hugo Weaving, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Joe Johnston
Universal Pictures

In Cinemas Friday 12th February
Review by Brad Harmer

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar® winner Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar® winner Anthony Hopkins – Freejack, The Mask of Zorro), Talbot sets out to find his brother...and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

Lawrence Talbot’s childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother’s fiancĂ©e, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt – the one who looks like a younger Kate Winslet), tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving – the geek’s favourite actor. Seriously, give him a role in a Star Trek movie and he’ll appeal to all of them.) has come to investigate.

As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoor. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself…one he never imagined existed.

The Wolfman is a fantastic movie to look at. Even the colour palette used, calls to mind both Gothic horror fiction and the original Universal horror movies, which helps to conjure up the right mood immediately. The special effects (done by Rick Baker, no stranger to werewolf make-up) are excellent throughout, and the CG and prosthetics work very well together. The transformation sequence itself is very closely reminiscent of the famous scene from An American Werewolf in London – almost as though Baker was saying “Ha! You can’t mess with perfection!”.

The “jumps” are well timed, although there are perhaps rather too many of them, and the action sequences look and sound great.

However, once one gets past the veneer and flashy effects, there really isn’t anything of substance left behind.

The pacing seems totally off. It hops from scene to scene and from location to location without every really stopping to develop anything. It feels like a literal adaptation of one of the old EC horror-comics from the fifties. Whilst at first this may seem thematic, in execution it is instead a bit of a mess. If you’re going to write a comic, make it a comic, not a movie.

The actors are not bad, but when you consider the calibre involved “not bad” should indicate how much they were punching below their weight. Benicio del Toro fails to impress, giving the impression that he was cast purely because he has a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. Emily Blunt is functional, but never seems involved. Even Sir Anthony Hopkins is rather disappointing – he never really seems to “get” his character. He turns in as good as a performance as he can, but it seems he’s rather hampered by the flimsy story and screenplay.

Hugo Weaving, however, is absolutely superb, and turns in a brilliant and occasionally comedic performance.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scenes of violent and highly gory murders and mutilations. Several shootings, and scenes of physical combat.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None
Summary: A stylish version of an old story. There’s no real depth and the plot-twists are predictable, but it’s pretty brainless fun nonetheless. 5/10

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