Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston
Writer(s): Andrew Kevin Walker, David Self
Cinematography: Shelly Johnson
Original Score: Paul Haslinger
Running Time: 102 Mins.
The troubled history of The Wolfman from script-to-screen is as infamous as they get, seeking to reboot their Universal Monster stable the studio hired director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), then amidst pre-production Romanek fled citing that all-encompassing reason “creative differences”, onboard came Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III, Jumanji) and having shot the film then returned for re-shoots (rarely a good sign) that meant the film was delayed a number of times. All in all not the potent mix that would usually lead to a successful, and more importantly, good film.
And alas, as I feared, all the shunting around of dates and change of director makes for a hugely uneven film, and while The Wolfman is far from a total disaster its problems far outweigh what good can be gleamed from the overall mess, it’s hard to know where to start when breaking down a messy film, for there are good parts within the bad and vice versa, the clashing and uneven tone are largely The Wolfman’s overarching problem with both the original director (and scripts) vision jarring against what Johnston seems intent on doing, especially given his slapdash approach at direction that is hampered by some poor editing.
This two-sided approach filters through every aspect, the score ebbs and flows between Danny Elfman-esque gothicism (original composer, also left mid-shoot), and more subdued atmospheric tracks that feel at odds with what is onscreen, a problem that the cast also seem to be afflicted with. Del Toro was evidently brought in when the film was intended as a character piece, yet is now reduced to looking confused and mumbling, while Blunt is quite simply (and uncharacteristically) bland as the love interest, and the less said about their blossoming romance over skimming stones, the better.
Hopkins and Weaving fare much better, hamming it up enough and showing great gusto amidst the films cheesier moments (and they are many!) suggesting that the studio veered from something more serious and decided to settle for parody of their old classic’s, something which would have worked if the film had the intention to carry it throughout. Between the limp attempts at character development are the action sequences, and while they have a certain spark at times and do teeter on the edge of exciting they seem far too glossy and CGI-ed to convince on any level, with the wolfman lopping off heads and arms in comic Monty Python style, any potential scare factor is lost and the blood and guts a little too low-key to likely please even the gore-hounds.
Much has been made of The Wolfman being Rick Baker’s (American Werewolf in London, Wolf) return to werewolf make-up effects, and while a great deal of time and money has been spent attempting to meld the CGI and practical effects together seamlessly it is a very hit and miss affair, the CGI is fantastic when called for in the man-to-wolf changes yet the make-up itself all too often resembles just that, make up, and there is little question as to which wolfman is scarier, this one or that of American Werewolf in London’s, something which goes to show that all the money in Hollywood cant buy you an atmospheric, scary, or fundamentally good film !
It is a shame that so little of The Wolfman satisfies, or succeeds, as all the elements are there, sometimes to be clearly seen onscreen. In fact, if we had a character piece starring Del Toro and Blunt with a companion piece that harked back to Universal’s classic monster movie, we may well have had the perfect pair up, as it is, combined as one, the result is just a disappointing mess.