The Wolfman (2010)

The Wolfman is a series of expected vignettes lacking any originality or accomplishment. The characters are dull and humourless, the action swift and unrewarding, the effects unimpressive and boring, the story ancient and crumbling. In parts it may entertain, and the body-count is impressively high, but overall it’s a missed opportunity to retell a classic tale in a compelling and modern way. The 2010 version of The Wolfman is frustrating and boring.

A description of the plot might appear as an insult to anyone who’s even glimpsed a werewolf story, but for those sans knowledge in lycanthropy law, here it is: haunted actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns to his childhood home in Blackmoor, summoned by his brother’s wife when his brother disappears. His brother is found dead, ripped to pieces by some unknown assailant, naturally blamed on a “madman”. Shockingly, Lawrence is bitten by something clawed and monstrous and subsequently undergoes odd, hairy changes during the full moon. Shock! What happens next, you may wonder? A happy ending, perhaps? A jolly tea party after a cure’s been miraculously found? Or maybe just some inner turmoil and a tragedy-laden beast hunt? Who can tell?

Perhaps this sarcasm is unnecessary, as it’s a remake of the classic 1941 Wolf Man, but any attempt of homage is quickly shoved aside by ugly cliché and then beaten senseless by flying limbs and flesh-ripping violence. The Wolfman is tragically wounded by a muddled tone – a visceral monster movie trapped in a serious family drama locked in a box labeled “homage”. And worst of all, it’s just dull.

There is no secret that the 2010 Wolfman experienced a number of creative difficulties during its creation. Original director Mark Romanek left under rumours of creative differences with Del Toro, and although it was originally scheduled for an October 2009 release there was a number of rewrites and reedits required, which might be responsible for the styleless, soulless werewolf drama-horror homogeny that we ended up with.

Combining the screenwriting genius of both Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en and Sleepy Hollow) and David Self (Thirteen Days and The Road to Perdition), you might expect a tense and understated mix of horror and drama. Yet it seems studio interference may have kicked away the potentially dramatic, intelligent werewolf drama and tipped a bucket of blood over it, hoping to drag the gore-hounds into the cinemas instead. The Wolfman is also helmed by the director of The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Jurassic Park 3, so a potentially dark, intelligent and atmospheric horror film became an incongruous mess for a number of reasons.

Yet it’s not just the writing and direction that let this monster movie down – the actors fail to add anything to the piece. Anthony Hopkins cranks up his hammiest Malcolm McDowell impression to 11, barely exerting himself beyond a one-note cliché while delivering some of the most baffling accent work of recent years. Benicio Del Toro simply exists within the film’s structure, trudging through it sullenly and depressingly, making him an impossible protagonist to sympathize with.

Even Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving add absolutely nothing to the film. Blunt exists simply to show off her cleavage, as her actions are utterly bizarre and her character almost entirely devoid of life. Weaving’s Detective Abberline is in a constant state of moody-bewilderment, and is painted as a bad guy and a good guy, depending on the scene. The fact they weave the real-life Jack the Ripper detective into this wildly extreme monster movie is just another addition to the sense of confusion and contradiction that flows throughout The Wolfman.

If you love swift, sloppily-executed violence and don’t find obvious cliché pan-facingly frustrating then perhaps The Wolfman might entertain, but otherwise you should probably avoid this. The style, acting and storyline are all incredibly dull. Bar a ridiculous section based in a mental asylum and some impressive cinematography, The Wolfman is something everyone has seen before, and done better a thousand times.

Watch the 1941 original instead. Watch An American Werewolf in London instead. Watch The Howling instead. Watch Teen Wolf instead! The Wolfman 2010 is not worth your attention.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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