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March 1, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

The Wolfman


In The Wolfman, Benicio Del Toro, a worthy successor to Lon Chaney’s horror crown (in appearance at least), plays Lawrence Talbot, an American actor drawn to his childhood home when his brother is killed by a werewolf. It’s not long before Lawrence is bitten, and with that, shit inevitably goes down. It’s a timeless concept, and writers Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) and David Self (Road to Perdition) give it a fair stab, capturing the slightly erratic energy of the classic Universal horrors while providing interesting characters in Lawrence and his supporting cast.

However, the script is only as good as the director makes it, and unfortunately for The Wolfman, Joe Johnston is not a very good director. Johnston’s direction is one of a journeyman, his period designs unimaginative, his lighting schemes unoriginal, and his reliance on ‘bus’ scares unappealing. There are flourishes of style here and there—the deliberately painful transformation sequences; the heavily-stylised asylum montage—but Johnston lacks the imagination and style that Mark Romanek, the director he replaced on this film, has in spades.

Of course, Johnston’s not the only one at fault here. Appearance-wise, Del Toro is excellently cast, his pitted features and dark, wounded eyes perfect for the role of a man afflicted by both lycanthropy and childhood woes. However, he often feels as if he’s going through the motions, and is frequently unengaging, doing his character a great disservice. Meanwhile, in his role as Papa Talbot, Anthony Hopkins appears to have decided that he is above acting, and recites his lines as though he were reading a recipe book while making dinner. While Emily Blunt gives a strong performance as Talbot’s potential love interest, and Hugo Weaving hams it up accordingly as the policeman on the case, they can only go so far to mitigate the damage caused by the two lazy lead performances.

The Wolfman is a fitfully entertaining film, and say what you will about bus scares, but they get you jumping. However, this iteration of the werewolf myth feels worn, derivative, and a little flat, making it an unfortunate disappointment this summer.

The Wolfman
Director: Joe Johnston


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