Review: The Wolfman
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
CityBeat rating: *2* out of 10
Let’s get a couple of things straight, right off. I don’t really watch a lot of horror movies, but I don’t have a problem with horror movies. I like scary movies. And I like movies with plenty of gore, assuming it supports the story. What I really don’t like, however, are stupid movies. And the new reboot of The Wolfman is a really, really stupid fucking movie.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Dude, you were expecting it to be good?” Well, as Ben Kingsley said in Sexy Beast, “Nononononononononono.” Of course not. It’s a movie whose release date has been pushed back twice. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that a big-budget movie with big-budget stars should at least follow some reasonable degree of logic. They’re asking you (and when I say you, I mean you, dear reader, because I didn’t pay to get in) to pay upwards of $10.50 to see it—and that doesn’t include your babysitter and your overpriced popcorn and soda.
So, for starters, let’s just say that it’s evident why The Wolfman pushed back its release date multiple times. Evidently, director Joe Johnston and his team of hotshots were simply unable to un-stupid the movie any further.
Here’s how it goes. It’s the late 1800s, and Benicio del Toro is Lawrence Talbot, a famous Shakespearean actor from America touring in England. That, in and of itself, makes no sense, but there you go. While in London, he receives a letter from Gwen (Emily Blunt), asking him to return to his childhood home because his brother Ben has gone missing. Lawrence, you see, is British, but was shipped off to the states by his dad after he witnessed his dark-skinned, dark-eyed mother’s death. Her complexion is only important, you see, because Anthony Hopkins plays his father, Sir John Talbot. Yes, they may both be Oscar-winners, but there’s a relationship that truly tests suspension of disbelief. And this is, after all, a werewolf movie.
Anyway, turns out Ben is totally dead, having been ripped to shreds by some unidentified Wolfman-like monster. The villagers are afraid, primarily because, as Gwen says, they’re stupid, simple people. I have to agree with her. Not because they believe in a Wolfman, but because they seem utterly incapable of figuring out who among them is the Wolfman, until long after it’s too late and the audience has sorted it all out.
Right. It’s not long before the Wolfman takes a bite out of Benicio, and equally not long after that (30 days, to be precise) before he’s happily skewering the very same mob who correctly assumed he should be feared and killed. But since a Wolfman is only a Wolfman one night a month, the authorities, led by Hugo Weaving and his odd facial hair, capture him the next day and cart him off to a London asylum in hopes of fixing whatever mental illness is causing these massive killing jags. Again, it’s not long (another 30 days, to be precise) before he goes all lupine again, shreds his tormenting doctors and slaughters a bunch of commuters and then wakes up sneaking across London to Gwen’s shop. He makes out with her and spends the next 29 days trekking back to his dad’s house to confront the original Wolfman.
Got all that? Let me put this into perspective. When he’s not busy being a Wolfman, Lawrence is one of the most famous thespians of the day. He killed a ton of people, and his picture is all over the papers for, well, being a Wolfman and killing a ton of people. That’s like if Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Mario Lopez were visiting San Diego, turned into a werewolf, went into a killing frenzy in the Gaslamp, woke up covered in blood and somehow managed to walk to North Park without being spotted. And then spent a month on the road, meandering up to San Francisco, without being noticed.
Of course, all this leads up to a Wolfman-on-Wolfman showdown, which should be a much bigger draw than it actually is. Now, if I’m the cops, I probably would try to capture or kill Lawrence on one of the 29 days a month he isn’t a Wolfman. These cops, however, don’t see that as a wise move. Additionally, we learn via a filthy gypsy woman (I say filthy because she’s played by white-as-can-be Geraldine Ferraro, who has been scrubbed with dirt to make her look swarthy) that a Wolfman can only be saved by one who loves him. That one, in this case, will probably be Gwen, even though her love for Lawrence is unreal, unbelievable, poorly considered and absolutely unsubstantiated by the rest of the movie itself. But for argument’s sake, let’s say that she loves him. This attribute seems to imbue in her the incredible superpower of being able to shoot him with a gun.
Seriously, this movie sucks. They should take away Benicio del Toro’s Oscar. The transformations are okay, and the R-rated slaughter scenes are really the only satisfying parts of the film, even though that rating will keep out way too many 14-year-old boys, who would seem to be the target demographic. Perhaps worst of all, when Lawrence is the Wolfman, it just doesn’t feel right. He runs on four legs when he should walk, and he walks when he should run on four legs. And when you see his face, he has more in common with Planet of the Apes‘ Dr. Zaius than he does with, well, a wolf.
We should get one other thing straight, here. Unlike many critics, I don’t relish mauling a bad film. It gives me no pleasure to take apart a small picture that tries too hard, or to spend even more time with a craptastic studio monstrosity that bored me silly when I saw it. But The Wolfman deserves to be ripped to shreds by some Wolfman-like creature. In this case, I guess, that’d be me.