AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Review of Universal’s The Wolfman (2010)

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After this, there is one more day of AWESOME-tober-fest 2010.  It’s hard to believe we are almost all done.  I’ve been planning this since January.

Anyway, Day 4 of werewolf movie week. Originally, today’s review was going to be of Hammer’s 1961 classic, Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed. However, obtaining a copy of that movie was harder than I expected, so I moved the below review from the end of yesterday’s Universal reviews over to here.  What may happen is that I’ll post “Special Edition” reviews in the next few weeks for AWESOME-tober-fest 2010 that didn’t make the cut.  Movies like Curse of the Werewolf and Full Moon High as well as TV Shows Big Wolf on Campus and Hilarious House of Frightenstein would be included. So, without further ado, let’s move on to my review of Universal’s 2010 remake, The Wolfman.

The Wolfman 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I loved the original Universal Wolf Man movie.  Werewolves have been my favorite monsters for years.  So, yes, I was super excited to hear Universal was bringing back their monster movies. They started with The Mummy back in 1999. Then around 2006-2007 I first read about The Wolf Man remake starring Benicio Del Toro as Talbot. While I’m not a huge Del Toro fan, I could see him as Talbot. Universal also went and got Rick Baker to do the wolf makeup and filled out the cast with other great actors; Sir Anthony Hopkins as John Talbot, Emily Blunt as Gwen and Hugo Weaving as a police inspector. Universal picked Andrew Kevin Walker to write the screenplay which was a great choice as he wrote moody thrillers like Sleepy Hollow, 8MM and Se7en.  And Mark Romaneck was selected as director in January 2007 and he was, to me, unproven but he had all this talent around him so I wasn’t too worried.

Then the production problems started.  Romaneck quit in February 2008.  Universal considered hiring Brett Ratner (NO!!) but came to their senses and hired Joe Johnston to deliver the finished film.  The release date slipped.  It was originally scheduled for Nov 12, 2008, but it slipped several times until it finally landed on Feb 12, 2010.  An interesting choice to open this on Valentine’s Day weekend.  Also interesting was that at no time was the movie slated to be released in October on Halloween.  The closest they got was November 2009.  Wonder what happened there.  Danny Elfman was hired to score the picture, however Universal didn’t think it fit with the tone of the movie so they hired another person to score it, but that too was scrapped and the Elfman score was reinstated.

So, as you can see, this wasn’t the breeziest of movie productions.  I read all the reports, so I knew all this when I finally saw it in February.  I was very concerned that the film was going to be an absolute mess.  However, it wasn’t too bad.  Granted my expectations were low, but I was still excited.

Wolfman 2010

The script expands greatly on the original Wolf Man story.  Even more so if you watch the Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray (or DVD) with 17 minutes of added footage.  Lawrence Talbot is a world renown Shakespearean actor in 1891 Britain.  His brother is killed by a superhuman wolf-like creature in the woods outside the family manor.  Lawrence returns home for the funeral.  While on the ride home, he meets an elderly man (uncredited Max Von Sydow appearance) who gives him a wolf headed cane (similar to the one in the original Wolf Man).  He claims it came from a region in France known for a spate of hundreds of murders by a supposed werewolf.

Wolf's head cane

Talbot accepts and we never see the old man again after arriving at Talbot manor.  Back at home, Lawrence reunites with his estranged father (played wonderfully by Hopkins) and his brother’s fiance, Gwen.  Before the funeral, Lawrence goes to a gypsy camp outside of town to investigate a claim by the townspeople that a dancing bear had attacked his brother.  While at the camp, the supernatural wolf creature attacks and viciously kills several people.  Lawrence rescues a child but not before getting bitten on the shoulder.  In a scene similar to the original movie, the gypsy woman Maleva tells Lawrence he is cursed and that only a loved one can remove the curse.

Insepctor Aberline

Inspector Aberline arrives to try to apprehend the killer.  Aberline is awesome in this movie.  He’s cool and calm.  Smart and calculating.  You get the feeling that he usually catches the people he goes after.  Anyway, he immediately suspects Lawrence for the killings due to past mental issues and his convincing portrayal of mentally ill characters in MacBeth and Hamlet.  Lawrence sends Gwen away and turns into the werewolf that night in a spectacular scene of wolfy mayhem.  Talbot awakes the next morning dazed and completely covered in blood and gore.

Talbot in blood and gore

Talbot gets taken to a mental hospital and overseen by a sadistic doctor. We get a pretty cool plot point reveal here. Talbot is then strapped into strait jacket, then bolted into a chair and dunked into a giant pool of ice water to rid him of his “demons” while an entire room of doctors watch. Talbot notices the full moon through the window and begs them to let him go before he kills them all. Too late. He makes a spectacular werewolf change while being strapped down and proceeds to maul and kill every doctor in the room. Fantastic. He then escapes and runs amok on the streets of 19th century London while being pursued by Aberline. It’s pretty awesome. We then get the final chase with Gwen and the big reveal/battle at the end.

Overall, the movie is good.  It drags a bit in the middle, but the action picks up after Lawrence is bit and then Aberline arrives in town.  Hugo Weaving as Aberline is wonderful in this movie.  Totally bad ass.  Totally in control.  He almost stole the entire movie and he was only in about half of it.  So, so good.

So, anyway, like I said this movie is good and the transformation effects are awesome.  Totally worth a watch, but remember, the story will drag a bit in the middle, but if you get through that you’ll be rewarded with a great finish and battle at the end.

So, one more day left in AWESOME-tober-fest 2010.  Hope you are ready for it.  Our final review will be for two lighter werewolf movies; Teen Wolf and Teen Wolf Too.  I loved the first one and was indifferent about the second.  I haven’t seen either in years so let’s see if they still hold up.  Return tomorrow to find out.

Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.


2 Responses to “AWESOME-tober-fest 2010: Review of Universal’s The Wolfman (2010)”

  1. Great review, Pax.

    I’d have to agree that the Director’s Cut is definitely the way to watch the film as it makes more sense, though Universal should be abashedly ashamed at the treatment this film has been given. I mean, first all of the production problems (not the least of which includes the troubles Baker was given with his special effects) then they release the “director’s cut” but only with the extra scenes spliced in so that it doesn’t fuse well with the theatrical footage. I did enjoy a few of the extras, though.

    I think the greatest (and most confusing) opportunity is with Von Sydow and that cane which could have been such a great chance to tie this film to the classic Wolfman mythology, but instead it comes off as so random.

    I like it, but it could have been SO much better.

  2. Agreed. I like it for a few of the performances and some of the action, but overall, the movie could have been so much better.

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