Wednesday, February 17, 2010

THE WOLFMAN (an "I Saw It" Review)


“I will kill all of you!” – Lawrence Talbot

So, I caught The Wolfman last weekend. I’ll save the typical synopsis and Hollywood jargon which you can find on plenty of other websites. For my two cents I’ll just try and focus on what worked for me. And, YES I enjoyed the movie.

The Wolfman was an entertaining horror movie that made no allusions to being anything except a horror movie set in historical times. The sets and pacing feel very much like the classic Universal monster movies of the 1940’s. I loved this. No quick edits, modern music, insider jokes, changes to the legend, etc…the movie stays simple to the premise…man is cursed and changes into a monster when the moon is full and if you’re going to kill it – think silver. Another bonus is that when The Wolfman does show up on screen it’s a fair exchange between CGI, practical F/X, and Benicio Del Toro (who I am not a fan of but did connect with in this movie) in full make-up. That alone gets a huge thumbs up from me! Too many movies toss CGI monsters at the viewer which clearly live in a world separate from the actors. There’s Gollum (which worked) and then there’s pretty much every other CGI-offering that Hollywood has produced…which don’t resonate with 100% realism. There’s something to be said about the simplicity of an actual made-up monster stalking characters. It adds a sense of true physical danger to the proceedings.

Speaking of the danger, violence is another avenue to the movie that I enjoyed and appreciated. If a man turns into a monster then you’d assume that there is no bargaining or reasoning with the beast. In this movie you’d be assuming correctly. Limbs and heads are severed faster than you can blink. I know I saw one disemboweling and one liver being eaten. And I saw lots of characters screaming and begging for their lives. Fat chance…you’d have better luck trying to broker a deal with the shark in Jaws. This Wolfman is all about the fast hunt and the blood kill…as an animal should be.

I’m a huge fan of the original Lon Chaney, Jr. Wolfman movies so it was also a pleasant surprise that the makers of the new movie didn’t try for too much of a remake and also didn’t err on the side of being too different. The key elements all are here: father-son dynamic, romance, prodigal son returning home, gypsies, curse, wolf, transformation, opening poem, and plenty of monster to behold. The changes incorporated all add a strong new life to the movie and concept. Of particular note is: the asylum transformation which takes place in front of a crowded viewing room, a chase through and over London, and a third act swerve that provides some motivation for Lawrence Talbot beyond, “I need to rid myself of this curse.”

I had read a lot about The Wolfman over the past several years. Normally this amount of production trouble results in a real stinker of a final movie. I was amazed that the end film came out as thrilling and entertaining as it did. For only being the second movie I have seen in 2010 (the first was Avatar)…the year’s looking real good.

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