‘The Wolfman’ Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated May 3rd, 2011 at 6:23 pm,

If you’re going to remake a classic movie, The Wolfman is an excellent example of how to do it right.

the wolfman reviews The Wolfman Review
Screen Rant reviews The Wolfman

The Wolfman is a remake of the classic 1941 film. It’s not a sequel, prequel, reboot or re-imagining that takes place present day – it is a remake in the purest sense of the word. Now here at Screen Rant we tend to rail against remakes on a weekly basis, but I’m here to tell you that if you’re going to do it, this is the way to go about it.

The film takes place in Blackmoor, England, in 1891 and Benicio del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot – the fellow in the original film who was cursed to become a werewolf by being bitten by one himself. He’s a well-known actor in London but was raised in the U.S., sent to live with his aunt by his father (played by Anthony Hopkins). His brother’s fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt) contacts Lawrence to let him know that his brother has been missing for two weeks. His brother is of course, dead (killed before the opening credits, so that’s not a spoiler) and his body turns up just before Lawrence (estranged from his father) returns to Blackmoor.

Although his brother is dead, Lawrence is determined to figure out who, or what, killed him. The townsfolk are feeding the rumor mill, not knowing who would so completely mutilate bodies (there have been other murders), and the speculation runs from crazed lunatic to some recently arrived gypsies to the dancing bear they brought with them.

Eventually his search leads him to the gypsies to find out what business his brother had with them, and the inevitable attack soon follows. Like in the original, he comes to a slow realization of what has happened to him and is torn between his will to live and wanting to destroy himself so he cannot kill.

The townsfolk are suspicious of him but his father manages to keep them at bay when they come out to his estate to try and take Lawrence away. Gwen has tended to his injuries (which heal at an accelerated rate) and while they have grown close, the fact that she was his brother’s fiancee keeps them both at arms’ length from each other despite their growing attraction.

Soon on the scene is a detective from Scotland Yard (Hugo Weaving, who I’m always happy to see in a film) there to investigate the recent deaths. He has his eye on Lawrence as a possible suspect (Lawrence’s father sent him to a mental hospital for a year before sending him to America – the reason why becomes clear by the end of the film). He is of course a rational man and the townsfolk speaking of silver bullets to kill monsters is poppycock to a man like him.

emily blunt the wolfman The Wolfman Review

Emily Blunt in a scene from 'The Wolfman'

Now there have been concerns about this film due to re-shoots and production delays, but I’m here to tell you not to worry. Director Joe Johnston (who is set to direct Captain America movie) has done an excellent job on all fronts with this film. His goal seemed to be to make this a gothic period piece and a horror film that pays homage to the original – and he nails it. Watching this you’ll just get the weird feeling that you’re watching a classic 1940s horror film, but made with modern technology.

Rick Baker (who’s previous special effects makeup credit includes the modern classic An American Werewolf in London) is the lead on the werewolf and transformation scenes here, and thankfully due to his skills there are many more practical effects than CGI. The transformation sequences looked particularly painful for Lawrence and the final design of the werewolf was wicked-cool (I was particularly fond of the hands with the long, razor-sharp claws).

Music by Danny Elfman was great and appropriate (seems like it’s been a while…). Always a fan of Anthony Hopkins on screen and Benicio has a screen gravitas that’s undeniable. The one weak link for me was Emily Blunt – maybe having seen her recently in Sunshine Cleaning, I just couldn’t quite buy her as the refined, delicate, British fiancee and it distracted me perhaps more than it should have.

While a bit choppy, the action scenes were very well done and quite effective. There was a bit too much reliance on “jump scares” but it was done in a way that didn’t seem as cheesy as we usually see in other films. And the film is rated R for good reason: PLENTY of gore and blood here folks and all I can say to that is thank you Joe Johnston! It just added a whole ‘nother level to the attacks and ferocity of the werewolf that just wouldn’t be there with all the blood and gore scrubbed from the movie to give it a bloodless PG-13 (teens might find the film a bit slow, anyway – it’s really more for grown ups).

Don’t take my last statement to mean that there’s nothing to keep you entertained here when it comes to action – there’s certainly enough and the ending is more satisfying than I thought it could be. Now if you’re looking for some hip update of the classic film, then move along, nothing to see here. Some may complain that this doesn’t bring anything new to the genre – but that’s not the point of this film. This version is a big time homage to the original, recreating it with modern day visual effects.

I think that eventually this version of The Wolfman will be considered a modern classic – and if you’re a fan of the old black & white classic horror films and can take the updated gore, I highly recommend it.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Time will tell.
    I've watched every werewolf move since day one.
    This movie reminds me of all the critics that trashed Alien the first movie.
    They were wrong.
    This is not the 50's Lon Cheny Movie nor is it Werewolf In London, Nor the howling.
    It's the best WereWolf Movie ever made. This movie rocks.
    Don't know what viewers are comparing to.
    Get Real, the best werewolf movie ever made!!!

  2. WOW?? Best Ever? Dog Soldiers was a way better movie.

    Did you not notice the one GIANT mistake in the film.


    When Hopkins was going on about his trek in India and revealing his scarred arm showing where he was bit by the Werewolf boy, hence being cursed himself, he still had the very visable bite scar. Then I was thinking… WTF, Benicio's massive neck scar from his bite totally disappeared over a few days because of his new healing powers!!! What a dumb mistake.

  3. I dug it. Some of the cg at the ending fight scene was a bit too obvious, but other than that I liked it.
    I LOVED the original with Lon Chaney Jr. and this was a fitting homage to that.

    I'm REALLY glad they opted for a wolfman who looked more like a man than a dog.

    Good job all around!…and I liked Emily btw.

  4. Did not like this movie. The acting was good, but the screenplay was horrible and the special effects left something to be desired. When you finally see the wolfman's face its looks so much like an old Halloween mask that it would almost have been better if they didn't show it at all. The suspense was there but only because they had 2:00 straight of near silence built up to a huge ROAR or BANG…. of course I am going to jump! The movie was too long and after the first 40 minutes I was ready to leave the theatre. I didn't and now I wish I would have. Spend your money on a different BETTER movie.

    • Screenplay horrible? Halloween mask? This comment (and others like it) seem to be coming from people that never saw the original movie. I was THRILLED to see that it wasn’t “updated” or “The Wooolfmahn For The 21st Century!!!” It was a really well done remake that didn’t lose that much over the first version– ‘cept Lon Chaney, of course. Though I didn’t like the vast amounts of dripping blood, it was pretty cool to see everything else in color.

      I am also glad to see a review that wasn’t looking for the hip, modern interpretation.

      • I also meant to mention with regards to the “Halloween mask” comment– what do you think all of those H’Ween masks are based on??

      • It just seems that if a director or producer is going to attempt a remake, it should be for a greater reason than taking the original and creating it in color. Yes, the classic films are great, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to make a film that returns to the qualities that made the original so good. In fact, I do believe they were striving for something deeper and more meaningful… however with the change in directors midway through filming, things got confusing. In fact, Universal almost shelved this production because they had lost faith in it.

        They hired Walter Murch to come in and hopefully save the project by doing excessive cuts and clean it up… and it only served to make the film seem even choppier and more confusing.

        • I can see your point. I’m not a film afficionado, so don’t usually look too closely at the way the film was made. Not that I can’t see when something is beautiful, or discordant, but I tend to just let my mind gloss over those things while I am watching.

          If the American public would pay money to go see the original of *any* old movie, then I would vastly prefer to see that in the theaters. However, we all want color and blood and special effects now– though I love the original “Wolfman,” I still chose to watch the remake rather than go get the ’41 version…

  5. I dug it.
    I thought the make up was great and was glad they got away from the whole dog-faced wolfman and back to the classic mostly-man wolfman.

  6. I dug it.
    I thought the make up was great and was glad they got away from the whole dog-faced wolfman and back to the classic mostly-man wolfman.

  7. I saw this film with few expectations, other than the hope of being entertained. I was certainly not entertained. From the outset, Del Toro’s Hispanic-tinged American English was very distracting in a field of British accents, and only served to make his wooden acting seem amateurish when combined with the stilted lines of a very tired and cliched script. I kept asking “why does he have a Mexican accent?”… and when the accent was finally explained halfway through the film, it no longer mattered, as I had already lost interest. From the cliched attack-scene opening to the standardized “regrettable death” at the end, there was very little reason to even bother watching the film. One or two moments of beautiful cinematography were not enough to save this extremely pedestrian piece of factory-pressed plastic. Realizing that Benicio Del Toro is a huge fan of the original “Wolfman” makes this an even greater trajedy… that he didn’t have enough passion in his own dream to create an engaging or at the least, fun, remake of his beloved original.

  8. There was so much wrong with this movie that I doubt any of us could really sum it up in any comment. I am completely in agreement with Frankentron on this. Upon hearing that Benicio Del Toro would be the titular Wolfman, I was excited about the film. Del Toro is a good actor. I just feel like he didn’t try. Even his stage performance in the beginning, with talents that Tolbot was renowned for, was wooden, and amatuerish.

    The biggest travesty, however has to do with the ending

    ***SPOILER ALERT****

    Werewolf Fight? God awful. Del Toro’s Wolfman bashes Hopkins’ Wolfman’s head against the floor. Any semblence of credibility this film had was lost then and there.

    To everyone who praises the film for its not deviating from the original in form, including the overall design of the Wolfman, believe me, I understand. But even that level of reverance couldn’t save this film.