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The Wolfman
Genre Horror
Year: 2010

The WolfmanBenicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt. It’s a star-studded cast with The Rocketeer and Hidalgo director, Joe Johnston at the helm. You can also add Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Jurassic Park III and Jumanji to his filmography, but don’t be fooled… Johnston’s a real talent. He’s already signed on to do The First Avenger: Captain America for 2011. His experience in fantasy and sci-fi shines through, two of the key components to most decent superhero movies. Superheroes are back to rescue America’s disillusioned anti-terrorism society much like post-WW2 and that means Johnston’s got his hands full.

The Wolfman is directed like a superhero movie: quick pacing, a fallen hero, an unfortunate incident, an untameable beast inside him… this could have easily been a story for The Incredible Hulk if you strip away the Sherlock Holmes backdrops and costumes. We’ve already seen a wolf man superhero show his true grit under the direction of our very own Gavin Hood in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but this is a remake of The Wolf Man (1941), which has just been released on DVD.

The Lycan/Werewolf is as much a horror icon as Count Dracula or Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolfman’s appearance is derived from such classics as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). There’s a fascination behind what separates men from animals, the same curiosity is expressed in Frankenstein as we try to separate life from death, man from machine. This curiosity has sustained these horror classics for ages and it was only a matter of time before the wolf man reared its ugly head again.

The Wolfman is comparable with Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes for its iconic character, CGI, old world London, gritty look, dark atmosphere and lightning fast pacing. This would be the perfect setting for a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the vein of The Hound of the Baskervilles and is… as Holmes wannabe, Abberline (Weaving), is ushered in from Scotland Yard. He’s a supporting act and doesn’t have a Watson sidekick, pipe or magnifying glass to get into character, but adds the “Elementary, Dear Watson” dimension.

Then Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is brought to mind… with this contemporary retelling of the monster’s plight. Seasoned veteran actor Robert De Niro starred as Frankenstein in Branagh’s film and Benicio Del Toro does the same job for The Wolfman. He delivers a slightly subdued performance at times stepping into Christopher Lambert Oscar clip territory, pushing off his supporting cast in Hopkins (at his fiery best) and Blunt (convincing as usual) for dramatic effect.

Del Toro does a fine job in portraying the anti-hero Wolfman, who you’ll find yourself rooting for… despite all the hair, decapitation and bloodshed. It’s the same animalistic rage that makes The Hulk a firm favourite amongst comic book heroes. The only difference being that full moon triggers the metamorphosis instead of anger. The CGI behind the Wolfman’s transition is superb… much more convincing than many other transformations witnessed in other horror/superhero films.

The rest of the film makes it difficult for you to guess whether the Wolfman is just an actor dressed in a wolfman costume or CGI (if you didn’t know it took Del Toro three hours to wolf up). Every scene with the Wolfman has a real weight and substance to it, unlike pure CGI battle sequences in other films. The cinematography is dark and beautiful, combining an equal measure of natural and urban backdrops. The shots of the moon, the howls, the bloody carcasses… you know you’re watching a movie about a werewolf.

The Wolfman does have a fairly high gore factor, but the bloodshed adds to the intensity of the story as the hunter becomes the hunted. Strangely enough, no wolves (or bears) were harmed in the making of this film. Now just because Beatrix Potter has made England famous for hedgehogs, bunny rabbits and ducks… doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as werewolves. Action is definitely the watchword with The Wolfman and there’s rarely a dull moment between all the gnashing of teeth and hunting parties.

We all know the story well and this is the sort of film that you could sell without any dialogue at all. Johnston’s visual story-telling and our knowledge of werewolves carries the film effortlessly, which is only buoyed by the sincerity of the performances, the dark foreboding backdrop and the high production values. The ensemble add their credibility to the piece and deliver solid performances, but you can’t help but feel that the age-old horror remake needs something more than an update in technology and a fresh coat of fur.

The bottom line: Captivating.

7.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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