In Review: The Wolfman
Do you enjoy horror movies? Are you a fan of Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt or one of the many other stars who pop in to pay the wolf a visit? Could it be that you’re curious as to what computer animators have done to the 1941 classic to make it a 2010 blockbuster? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions then it’s likely that The Wolfman is the movie for you.
After learning via letter from his brother’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), that his brother has gone missing, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) returns home to help with the investigation. Upon arrival, he learns from his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) that his brother’s mangled remains have been found in a ditch. Unable to accept this news, Lawrence goes to see his brother’s remains at the local mortuary. In his brother’s possessions, he finds a mysterious medallion and is told that his brother must have gotten it at the nearby gypsy camp. Against his father’s wishes, Lawrence travels to the camp during a full moon. He meets with a gypsy named Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin) who warns him of great danger. At this point, the camp suddenly comes under attack by a werewolf who kills and maims most of the villagers. When a young gypsy boy runs to the woods to get away from the werewolf it instinctively chases after him. An armed Lawrence runs after them, but, in saving the boy’s life, he is subsequently attacked by the werewolf and bitten on the neck. Maleva cares for Lawrence and, along with other gypsies, returns a dying Lawrence to his father. However, Lawrence heals quickly and the wound becomes just a scar which will disappear later. Hearing of his miraculous recovery and realizing what it means, the townspeople come to kill Lawrence. However, his father intercedes and threatens to kill anyone who trespasses on his land again. As expected, Lawrence turns into a werewolf during the following full moon and kills the people who sought to kill him. Finding his son once again in human form, but covered in blood, Sir John turns Lawrence over to the police and Lawrence is committed to a local mental institution. Will Lawrence be cured in the asylum? Does Sir John have a secret? Can the original werewolf be stopped before he kills again? To learn the answers to these questions, you must see the movie.
Directed by Joe Johnston with a script by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, The Werewolf isn’t all that you hope it’ll be. If you are familiar with the original film, you know from reading my brief summary that certain key plots points have been changed. At the risk of ruining it for others who are new to this story, I will not mention other plot points that have been changed. As a stand alone movie, The Werewolf stills fails to grab your attention. As you would expect, the filmmakers relied heavily on computer animation which leaves the movie looking fake at points. Not only this, but it’s more gory than it has to be which detracts from the story. Watching this film, you’ll long for the horror films of long ago when much was left up to the imagination and horror films were actually scary. Unfortunately, this boring movie has a fantastic cast that will make you want to go see it. In the role of man turned beast, Benicio del Toro is great. As he already (in my opinion at least) resembles a werewolf, it clear that he was born to play this part. As a grieving fiancée trying to come to terms with life, Emily Blunt is wasted. Had this film actually been a remake of the original, I’m sure she would’ve been phenomenal, but as it was re-written she doesn’t really have a chance at being good. Most disappointing of all though is Anthony Hopkins. His once distinguished role is now laughable. You will leave the theater scratching your head wondering why such an awarded actor would accept such a frustratingly predictable role.
Regardless of which version of the film you have seen, The Werewolf is a movie about having to come to terms with the beast within you as well as society’s views on said beast. We all have a dark side or a secret part of ourselves that we try to keep hidden. Knowing how society would judge us and cast us out, we hold even tighter to our beast. More often than not, we are able to do this without causing anyone harm. Yet, for some of us, the beast breaks free when we’ve let our guard down and “all hell breaks loose.” For Lawrence, he struggles with the creature he has become. During the full moon, he kills and maims people without knowing it. Yet, when he returns to his human form he is left a depressed, broken man with blood on his hands. He feels hopeless and wonders if he should end his life to save the lives of others. To many people with mental illness, this internal battle is all too common. Born with an unbalanced mind, these people suffer to keep their “beast” under control. Yet, relapses are possible especially when medicine goes untaken. Watching this film, I was reminded of a story I once read in magazine about a psychiatrist who was trying to make a family understand their loved one’s mental illness and their need to be medicated. Yes, their loved one was fine today and maybe tomorrow, but every month there was sure to be a day or two where they wouldn't be. They would have a full moon and the beast would come out. Could they risk their safety and the safety of their loved one by not encouraging their loved one to take the medication daily? Knowing what would happen if he was left to his own devices and considering how much he struggled with coming to terms with the beast inside him, it’s surprising that Larry didn’t just have himself locked up during every full moon. I guess that’s why it’s just a movie though.
Despite its ability to deliver such a heavy message, I cannot recommend this movie especially if you’ve already seen the original. As I said before, it’s needlessly gory and boring and will leave you longing for the horror movies of yesterday. In lieu of seeing this film, I suggest you rent or download the original film directed by George Waggner and starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Rains. It is certain to scare you, but won’t make you sick to your stomach.
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