The Wolfman

The Wolfman


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

When it comes to remakes, there are two extremes - near-psychotic reverence for the original (Gus Van Sant's Psycho, say) or keep the basics and throw most everything else out (Neil La Bute's Wicker Man). Both approaches are risky, though both elicit reactions of 'what's the point?'

Universal, with their remake of 1941's The Wolf Man, play it smarter. They keep the meat of the story but update the effects, change the odd detail and add a twist that makes for a more emotionally satisfying, action-packed climax.

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We open on the old poem the original's writer, Curt Siodmak, came up with to lend a nice sense of folklore:

Even a man who is pure in heart And says his prayers by night May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms And the autumn moon is bright.

Enter actor Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), called to the ancestral home when his brother goes missing. The poor guy turns up dead, slaughtered by something fierce. Soon after, Larry is caught up in the monster's attack on a gypsy camp. Of course, he gets scratched...

...well, this being 2010, he's near-eviscerated, but, happily, old gypsy women are a dab hand with the needle. Larry survives, but finds this may not be a good thing when he begins transforming into a were-creature with terrifying appetites and the claws to satisfy them.

Cue complications with his brother's fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt), mad asylum keeper Dr Hoenneger (Antony Sher), monster hunter and real-life Ripper detective Francis Abberline (Hugo Weaving) and best of all, Sir John (Anthony Hopkins), Larry's estranged father.

It all makes for a fine romp, with heads flying, virgins screaming and a fantastic chase scene over the rooftops apparently inspired by 1935's Werewolf Of London. Effects god Rick Baker - who cameos as a doomed gypsy - homages Jack Pierce's original make-up and it works wonderfully well-on Del Toro's already lupine features. If only the actor's barnet looked as good, as he displays the worst haircut since the original Edmund Black Adder.

Never mind, Del Toro's Wolfman works. His Larry could do with a bit more passion - there's too much of him looking pensive and tortured - but Hopkins makes up for this with a tremendous turn. He treads a fine line between melodramatic and believable as the aristocrat who knows more than he's telling. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks, but if not, I ain't spoiling.

Blunt doesn't have a great deal to do, but she does it well, bringing as much bite to the role of repressed Victorian maiden as she can get away with and adding welcome emotion to the final scenes. Weaving turns up occasionally with a mob of policeman, but Abberline is more a plot function than a character. And Sher chews the scenery perfectly, prior to becoming a bloody part of it.

The Wolfman is no one's definition of High Art, but it's great craft; an entertaining, efficient thriller with enough gore to please the teens and enough story to while away anyone's evening. The direction is pacey, the sets and locations gorgeous, and Danny Elfman's score is efficiently reminiscent of Wojciech Kilar's music for Coppola's Dracula. The film tells an old story well for a new generation, and I'd be delighted to see a sequel.

Yes! Unbelievably, someone else gets scratched...

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2010
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The Wolfman packshot
Wolf bites man. Man bites everyone else.
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Director: Joe Johnston

Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, based on the 1941 screenplay by Curt Siodmak

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Art Malik, Antony Sher

Year: 2010

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US


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