While in London on a theatrical tour in 1891, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), the son of nobleman Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) now living in America as an actor, receives a letter from his brother's fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), requesting his help after his brother's disappearance. Reunited with his estranged father, Lawrence sets out to find his brother. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been terrifying the community around Blackmoor. Scotland Yard inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving) has come to investigate, but as Lawrence's own search intensifies, he discovers shocking family secrets that trigger a tragic and bloody chain of events.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Some 70 years after Lon Cheney created The Wolfman, Universal returns to Blackmoor with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role and a team of superior special and visual effects engineers to revive The Wolfman, in an effort to reschedule him from the Saturday matinee slot to prime time. Written and crafted with great sensitivity, this is high class gothic horror.
And to get a class act, you need class actors: Del Toro has what it takes to create a complex, brooding and tragic wolfman whose family history hangs over him like the sword of doom. Emily Blunt is perfect as the desirable and vulnerable but strong willed Gwen, destined to love him to the nth degree; Anthony Hopkins brings his gravitas to the role of Sir John, whose enormous unkempt manor is symbolic of his inner corrosion. Hugo Weaving is wonderfully detailed as the detective from the Yard determined to track down the killer on the moor; Geraldine Chaplin is surprisingly effective as Maleva the Gypsy mystic; and Art Malik has an important cameo as Sir John's long-time house servant, Singh.
While the intention is to make The Wolfman relevant to contempo audiences, the screenplay focuses on fleshing out the original story and recreating the period (1891) without trying to be tricky in rewriting the myth. There is no attempt to foist the story's deeper symbolism about the fusion of man & beast and the excellent production design is faithful to the genre without being burdened by it. Danny Elfman's music also pays tribute to the gothic traditions with its dark tones and urgent warnings, adding a visceral edge to the story. The make up effects fused seamlessly with the digital effects are faultless, adding to the credibility factor and pushing our imaginations into the film's world.
But it's not the effects that make the film so effective: it's the characters who resonate and touch us on a deeper level.
The Wolfman is a satisfying piece of entertainment in that tradition of cinema which offers audiences extreme thrills without risking their own lives and which relies on our primal fears of the unknown - and even in today's internet-informed age, there are still many dark unknowns, irrational fears and mysterious dungeons to explore.
Review by Louise Keller:
Audiences have long been fascinated by the dramatic confluence of good and evil as man involuntarily becomes beast. Since Lon Chaney Jnr's iconic 1941 version of The Wolfman, the screen has brought us many variations on the theme including Frankenstein, Jason, The Mummy, The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine. But there is nothing like the mythical lycanthrope and here, director Joe Johnson dips his hand into the original horror genre pot as we are swallowed up by a reality of curses, ghosts of the past, gypsies, superstitions, silver bullets and a glowing full moon with a compulsive call. Splattered with the blood of authenticity, this is an impressively executed genre film spiked with scares, tension and pathos as we enter the surreal world of the tortured werewolf.
The story might have been updated for contemporary audiences, but the essence of this 2010 version is true to the original B-genre concept. Superb production elements and effects, striking locations and a suitably tortured and melancholy score by Danny Elfman form the canvas, on which the electric presence of Benicio Del Toro paints his definitive strokes. Myths and monsters are the nightmares that keep the locals from the desolate woods and plains of 19th century England wide awake at night.
'Never look back; the past is a wilderness of horrors,' Anthony Hopkins' Sir John Talbot tells his actor son Lawrence (Benicio), when the latter returns to his childhood estate home after the violent death of his brother. Flashbacks to Lawrence's childhood and the circumstances of his mother's death allow us to accept Del Toro's American accent and dark exotic features and Del Toro's casting works spectacularly well. It is through his eyes we learn of the secret taunts and gruesome reality the community faces when the full moon rises.
Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self's screenplay (based on the Curt Siodmak's 1941 original) is commendably concise at 100 minutes, enabling succinct storytelling. I like Geraldine Chaplin's knowing gypsy and Art Malik's loyal servant Singh, while Emily Blunt is lovely and gutsy as Lawrence's love interest. Hopkins adds gravitas (and nice piano playing) to his troubled man with a secret, while Hugo Weaving is spot on as Scotland Yard's by-the-book Inspector Francis Abberline. Never professing to be anything more than good old-fashioned entertainment but always shows class, The Wolfman yowls loudly and convincingly to satisfy our hunger.
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WOLFMAN, THE (MA)
CAST: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Anthony Hopkins, Geraldine Chaplin, Art Malik, Elizabeth Croft, Sam Hazeldine, David Sterne, Cristina Contes
PRODUCER: Benicio Del Toro, Sean Daniel, Scott Stuber, Rick Yorn
DIRECTOR: Joe Johnston
SCRIPT: David Self, Andrew Kevin Walker (1941 screenplay by Curt Siodmak)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shelly Johnson
EDITOR: Walter Murch, Dennis Virkler,
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Heinrichs
OTHER: Rick Baker (Special make up effects)
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 11, 2010