Published on February 12th, 2010 | by Greg0
The Wolfman Goes Old School
In a time when we’re reinventing the witch, the vampire and the werewolf, it’s often surprising when the original mythology sticks it’s head back in. Having been introduced to a ministry of wizardry in Harry Potter, it’s downright weird to see the old stereotypical scary and gypsy witch who has made a pact with Satan. When a vampire drinks only human blood in movies, Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer have made you wonder why animal blood is not a sufficient alternative. And not seeing oneself in a mirror? Isn’t that an old superstition? Through this path, the werewolf too has also gone. Our recent werewolves, a la True Blood and Twilight, are true animagi, capable of changing into full-fledged wolves at will and sometimes fighting for the greater good, often against vampires.
The Wolfman, a remake premiering in theaters February 12, is a throwback to the murdering, rampaging werewolf circa 1941, when the original was released. Unleashed at the full moon, the werewolf destroys lives, families and is unstoppable except by the almighty silver bullet. Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) comes home from his touring theater group after receiving a letter from his brother’s fiance (played by Emily Blunt) that his brother is missing.
When he arrives the brother’s body has already been found, dead and mutilated in a ditch, and Lawrence then shifts his energy to finding his brother’s killer and comforting his brother’s widow. Lawrence finds the killer, a werewolf, who promptly bites him and passes on what we all know to be the “curse”.
Lawrence realizes what he’s become, though not before he kills a few people or so, and he forewarns people that they’re in danger when the next moon comes around. Trapped in a mental hospital that makes Guantanamo Bay Prison look humane, his warnings are interpreted as a mental delusion by the caretakers who unknowingly provide him a method of escape.
Benicio Del Toro, who himself has made an amazing transformation from a killed-off side character in The Usual Suspects to the starring role in a major film, played Wolfman with the right mixture of tortured dejection and self-loathing angst. Anthony Hopkins also does great as that, you know, semi-mad mentor role he sometimes plays.
Emily Blunt plays a fairly flat tragic character to the best of her ability and is most noteworthy for debonairly combining blue with her black Gothic outfit. The entire film has a very subtle dark style to it that nicely compliments the underlying Gothic themes. Perhaps that makes it even more surprising when the beast’s face is finally revealed to be pretty close to the original or, since I’ve never seen the original, close to the Michael J Fox “Teen Wolf” version. What? Who injected the cheese into this horror/tragedy? Oh, no wait, they’re serious.
Considering this film has gone through like three directors and several different possible release dates, it’s surprising the film turned out as well as it did. It’s mostly internally consistent with a unifying theme and style, but it’s neither scary nor funny nor truly action. It’s not quite suspense, nor is it really a mystery, which, in the end makes it a rather lackluster film- not bad so much as simply unnecessary.
Secrets, awesome powers, and complicated family relationships are all a win, and I’m all for bringing more sexy, tortured wolf movies to the forefront. But so much of the old mythology is stifling. Getting in touch with one’s animal side, letting loose with awesome strength gets compromised amidst the superstitious and the self-hating. The Wolfman is a throwback in a few different ways, but I’m looking forward much more to the next evolution of the werewolf, not the previous one.