The Wolf Man

February 15, 2010 by  

Out of all the movie monsters we’ve been subjected to throughout the history of Hollywood, I still think the wolf man is one of the most haunting and frightening, and engaging. There’s something mysterious and horrifying about a wolf man for some reason. Lon Chaney, Jr. perfected the look and feel of what a wolf man would have to suffer and live through back in the 1941 film. In this day and age, with the advent of CGI, the question would be: can you have a synthetic wolf man FEEL real?

I think back to the two “Hulk” movies that were made in the past decade. It’s practically the same story, and both borrow from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” anyway. The problem with both movies, though less of a problem in the latter film, was that the Hulk wasn’t played by a person. It was a CGI construction. While the second film presented a more realistic and poignant version of the Hulk, you could still tell it was computer animation, and not a person (“Avatar” suffered from this flaw, as well). I was afraid that this film would present the same issue.

However, the only time that the wolf man is all CGI is when he’s bounding around on all fours, which does look unrealistic. But sometimes you do have to ask yourself: am I really of the knowledge of how fast a wolf man can travel? Do I know any wolf men? Am I a wolf man?

CGI is also used during the transformation scenes–but they look great. I still think that the best transformation scene of any werewolf film occurred in “An American Werewolf in London”, but this one passes as well.

As for the story, it’s fairly run of the mill. It borrows a bit of the original story from the 1941 film, but there’s one little twist that’s different. You see it coming a mile away, though, so it’s not really all that effective. It involves a man, Lawrence Talbot (played by Benicio Del Toro) who returns to London after learning of his brother’s death (whom he only knew as a child) and meets his beautiful fiance, Gwen (Emily Blunt). Lawrence visits his father (Anthony Hopkins) who still lives in the castle that he raised the boys in. As the story progresses, details about his brother’s death (and his mother’s years prior) start to unfold and Lawrence’s life becomes ultimately more complicated when he is bitten by a werewolf one evening.

The performances by all four leads – Del Toro, Hopkins, Blunt, and Hugo Weaving as an inspector from Scotland Yard, are all top class. Hopkins just revels in seeing his son suffer, and Del Toro’s expression never strays from anguish and despair.

This film bounced around release dates for a while, and was pushed back several times. Typically this means the movie will be rubbish. But in this case, I still think it’s a solid film even if the character development is lacking and the relationship between Gwen and Lawrence is contrived (they share one moment skipping rocks and suddenly they’re in love)–the film still works. And the wolf man design is pretty terrifying. It’s loyal to the original design, and doesn’t look cartoonish.

It’s interesting that it was released on Valentine’s Day weekend. In a strange way, I guess you could call this a romantic movie.

Werewolves can be sexy too, no? Why do vampires get all the fun?

My rating: :-)

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