Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review – The Wolfman (2010 Remake)

When I first saw trailers for the remake of the classic Lon Chaney Jr./Bela Lugosi monster movie, The Wolfman, I was excited. They changed the setting to Victorian Era England, which as a fan of Rippers I would hardly complain about, the casting had a long list of actors I like, Benecio del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Anthony Hopkins... even a cameo by Max von Sydow (though this got edited out and only appeared in the Director's Cut of the final film.) The more I read about it, the more excited I got. CGI would be used for transformation scenes, but whenever possible, traditional makeup and effects tricks would be used, and visually the original monster would be the inspiration for the new creature's appearance. They even went out of their way to specifically name and place even the bit parts from the original film, a detail only the most obsessive of us film geeks would even notice. This movie couldn't possibly be bad! Only... it was.

Not just bad, atrocious. How so much of the planning and concept of a film can be so right, and the execution be so horribly wrong baffles me. With all of the pieces they had in place, screwing this up so completely takes real talent. I can't fault the actors for what they did with the material they had to work with, aside from a few uneven moments in establishing a character with a consistent personality from del Toro and a little light scenery-chewing from Hopkins (which, let's face it, he'll do if given the chance,) the acting was good. Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving in particular gave great performances that were wasted here. The special effects, too, were well executed and looked good on screen (with an exception I'll get into later) and the environments were pitch-perfect. In many places clever details paying homage to earlier films were added, as extra “easter eggs” for those who caught them (or can surf IMDB.) That's all that was good about the film.

The number one issue is that the script and direction is laughably inconsistent, to the tune of it feeling like different teams worked on different scenes with no communication between each other. Here's where we start with the spoilers, you've been warned. From scene to scene, the locals go without any apparent cause from laughing at the idea of werewolves as utter stupidity to ready to kill del Toro's Lawrence Talbot for being one without any evidence and back to pish-poshing the idea again later. Apparently Emily Blunt's love interest character Gwen Conliffe originally got Talbot to return to the family estate by means of sending a letter to him. Later, they shot a scene where instead of a letter, she turns up in person, but later scenes refer to her letter not once, but twice. The script also can't agree on whether Talbot was in New York or London, telling us both at different intervals. This isn't “Oh, wow, that coffee cup moved 2 feet to the right, better report the goof on the internet” stuff... it is sloppy filmmaking.

Why are so many Victorian Horror films made so badly? Do bad directors just love top hats?

The plot twist that was shoehorned into the basic framework was predictable and hamfisted. Like all the worst scripts, it asks the audience to believe that many characters suddenly stop behaving the way they have for decades based on incredibly flimsy reasoning. When the reveal of the sudden betrayal finally happens, it isn't met with a gasp of surprise, but a sigh and a “but that doesn't make any sense!” Also, the entire role of the gypsies in the film is poorly handled, they speak the wrong language, act inappropriately for their culture at the time, and create the largest nonsensical plot hole in the story. The mysterious old gypsy woman from Central Casting knows that Talbot is a monster, knows he cannot be saved, her people beg her to just kill him and be done with it. She refuses, spouting some vague philosophy and dooms dozens of people to die for no reason, as she tells Gwen later how to kill him. Not that the audience ever understands why Gwen has to kill him instead of just letting a mob with silver bullets do the job, mind you.

Somehow, despite the fact that he is portrayed as honorable, professional and only wanting to stop the werewolf attacks, the audience isn't supposed to like Hugo Weaving's Inspector Abberline. The film tells us again and again that Talbot is cursed, that the horror will only end in his death, but we're shown scene after scene meant for us to root for the monster anyway. Weaving is even given a charming scene with the locals, one that serves to make his character likeable again, but by the end of the film, I couldn't honestly answer what the point of his character was at all. He is portrayed alternately as hero and villain, doesn't really end up doing anything of consequence, and his injuries at the end suggest that he will fall to the curse next, basically because Emily Blunt knocked his weapon away for reasons never explained in a crucial moment. Okay, so someone who “loves him” has to end the curse, even though the relationship established is shallow and unbelievable... but if someone else kills him then... what exactly? Either way, at the end of the film, the creature and Talbot are dead.

The creature looks way cooler in this promotional still than he ever does in action.

As for the creature itself, I applaud the idea of making the wolfman look like an updated version of Lon Chaney Jr.'s original monster. Problem is, in practice, the monster just looked kind of silly. Despite all the screaming, severed body parts, action footage and gallons of stage blood, this Wolfman is a varsity jacket away from looking like Teen Wolf. Not scary. Every time he roared or howled, I winced, because for all the noble intentions of paying homage to the classic, the wolfman looked... stupid. It is a real shame, because when we can barely see the monster, it looks kind of cool, but the entire last bit of the film has the creature posing, snarling and severing limbs in the center of the screen. I was a little embarrassed for the filmmakers by the end of it all, as it took itself too seriously to even get filed under “campy, but stupid fun.”

I can't really recommend this to anyone. The best scenes were shot in a vacuum, the plot makes no sense and the object and focus of the movie looks ridiculous. When it isn't being ludicrous, it is being boring instead, as there is no sense of pacing or flow throughout the film as a whole. Honestly, go back, watch the original with Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi and try to pretend that they never wasted anyone's time or money with this worthless remake. You'll be happier.
Best Blogger Tips
  • Stumble This Post
  • Save Tis Post To Delicious
  • Share On Reddit
  • Fave On Technorati
  • Buzz This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Digg This Post
  • Share On Facebook
Blog Gadgets


Alpha said...

Damn, even del Toro, Hopkins, and Weaving couldn't save it.

Timothy said...

Josh gives a negative review! You keep this up and I'll have to learn how to praise films, books, and games and not just give, at best constructive, but too often damning criticism.
I stayed away from this when Smitty told me he couldn't stay awake through repeated effort to watch it. I like the original, but it hasn't aged as well as I would like. The problem is trying to make a genre film in the blockbuster mold instead of doing one well enough to where it can do near blockbuster Box Office.

Wolle said...

Thank you for saving my time :)

Post a Comment