Cutting to the chase, much like the film itself, I enjoyed this movie. It’s very much a kissing cousin to Coppola’s Dracula, Branagh’s Frankenstein and Burton’s Sleepy Hollow: Take one classic horror story; liberally mix in stylistic elements from Universal and Hammer films; crank the speed up to 11. Speed is as much an enemy of horror films as complexity, and none of the above films ended up being particularly frightening. They are all, however, richly dense with wonderful production design, good use of fx and a sense of fun. In much the same way as Tod Browning’s Dracula and Coppola’s Dracula are fun in completely different ways, this Wolfman is a wholly different animal than the 1941 version.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the resemblance to Ang Lee’s Hulk either. Just switch out Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte for the leads in this, and there you are.
They keep the tragic nature of the character, which is important. The Wolf Man is a good man, but one who can’t help but unleash the beast inside of him. He wasn’t even a scientist working on some sort of ridiculous potion; He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the thing that remains with you is the thought that all of us have a bit of wolf inside, waiting and wanting to get out.
It’s not surprising that Rick Baker would keep his Wolfman design pretty close to Jack Pierce’s original, resisting the urge to modernize and make something less potentially goofy looking. Perhaps as a response to potential laughter, the movie is surprisingly gory, though, again, never really scary. It’s hard to take a movie seriously that has the Wolfman punching someone’s head off, like in Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
Upping the sexual tension a bit more might have helped, since the Wolfman is the id. That’s the weakest aspect here, by far; The romance feels extremely forced. There might be some worth in an extended directors cut, since it seems like they’re zipping through a lot of scenes in the first 15 minutes of the film.
The cast is all good. Del Toro has the right hangdog expression for Larry, and I have a fetish for crazy Anthony Hopkins roles. Blunt and Weaving are good in their bits, and no one else has much of a part. A celebrity cameo as the brother might have helped bring a little instant compassion to the beginning of the movie, and as it is I can barely remember what the dude looks like.
Would I recommend this to people? If you’re a horror movie fan, definitely. Anyone else. . . it’s questionable. It’s one third great, one third goofy fun and one third lame. And the whole thing is a mess, certainly. But, the great parts keep occurring to me, and my appreciation for this has grown in hindsight. So, if that sounds appealing to you, go see it.
There’s a werewolf wrestling match late in the film that I would classify as “Stupid Awesome”. My definition of “Stupid Awesome” is any moment in a film where bad ideas and good ideas circle around until they meet in one instant of greatness. Examples? James Earl Jones crying about Padme in Revenge Of The Sith as the Emperor cackles nearby. The ending of The Mist. Yeah, it’s that good.
And I found myself shocked that the CGI transformation scenes, in conjunction with Rick Baker’s amazing makeup, looked great.
I conclusion, this isn’t going to be one of the all time great werewolf movies, but it is a really fun one, and I’m sure I’ll see it again more than once. Long live Larry Talbot.