I have a hard time imagining where the $150 million dollars went to make this film. Sure, the cast surely received top checks for their previous work with proven box office ability, and the special monster effects are costly these days, but $150 million? Perhaps the film will find some niche audience somewhere out there that will elevate the poultry $139 million it has earned as of the writing of this review, but I doubt it.
I avoided this film in the theater if, for no other reason, than the disappointing trailer and the typical ‘concept-over-story’ constructs which have become the nefarious blueprint for Hollywood remakes these days. Followers of my blog will undoubtedly recall my previous posts on the subject of Hollywood remakes, brandishing said critiques like pitch forks and burning hay bales side-by-side with all moviegoers who have surely had their fill of such box office jetsam. I had a moment of pause when I learned that not only Benicio Del Toro was cast, but also Anthony Hopkins, Emily blunt and master character actor Hugo Weaving (agent Smith anyone?). How could a film go so terribly wrong? Perhaps it was Benicio Del Toro, one of my favorite actors, as the placid, figuratively toothless Wolfman floundering through his lines, lost from one dull line to the next. Or maybe, more painfully, it was my own desire for something original, for a single redeeming moment to capture and keep my waning attention? Del Toro was captivating in Che, though I don’t feel the story required two feature-length films any more than Tarrantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 & 2. He gave memorable performances in The Usual Suspects and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But here, he was stiff and awkward and at an hour and 42 minutes, well, not many actors could salvage a film with such a muddy script and hapless direction by Joe Johnston. You’ll most likely recall Mr. Johnston as the captain of such forgettable films as The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III, and Jumanji. Sure, The Rocketeer made money but not much, and Jurassic Park III , is most likely his biggest success to date earning nearly $400 million dollars worldwide. Remember my post on Hollywood remakes? I might be stretching the bankability of Mr. Johnson and the subsequent lending of more money to make more movies, since we know all about the grease that keeps the Hollywood machine going. Mr. Johnston will no doubt continuing making pictures, trusted with $150 million dollars, but an old adage comes to mind – burn me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me.
Benicio Del Toro was by far the biggest shortcoming in Wolfman. His emotions were stamped down, the delivery of even the most passionate moments between his character and the character of Emily blunt were cold, disconnected and empty. All memories of Del Toro in Che were torn from me. Anthony Hopkins delivered a resolute and sophisticated Sir John Talbot, but in all honesty he was miscast here. Hopkin’s previous roles as the anti-vampire zealot Professor Abraham Van Helsing in Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1992 Dracula was all too familiar, at least for me, and as a result Talbot was unapproachable and vague – a character that was difficult to find an emotional tether rope to. Emily Blunt was watchable, as usual, but it was apparent from her earliest appearance in the film that she struggled with the same lacklustre script that tainted the entire production.
The Wolfman simply enough did not deliver. We were treated to the prototypical fable, the all too familiar union of man and beast, and the intersection where beauty arrives and despite initial revulsion finds pity and compassion for the creature that lives in all of us. If only there had been something more to latch on to, something in the way of Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld franchise – a different path for a familiar story. If given the chance, see the 1941 Wolfman with Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Béla Lugosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya and embrace a film that knows what it is and what it isn’t.