‘The Wolfman’ Review

Published 4 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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TAGS: 3 star movies, the wolfman

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  1. All I've been reading is how bad this movie turned out. I think this is the only positive review I've seen yet. One review said the audience laughed at a scene that was not supposed to be funny in any way. Hate to say it but Joe Johnston is looking like a bad choice for Cap.

  2. I think, in a way, that you're correct. Critics were not expecting that type of horror and they simply didn't like it. Another thing is that the movie might just be bad. Straight and simple answer.

  3. I said horror when I meant gore.

  4. Thanks for giving me a new name, Vic. I like “Sophie”. :)

  5. LOL, where the heck did I get “Sophie”…

  6. Dear Hollywood,

    It has been great these last twenty-or-so odd years. You were wonderful, the people working on your films put in tons of effort and showed us all lots of creativity. All fun parties sadly come to and end eventually and that is why instead of making a scene at the theater I decided to write you this note that I am breaking up with you. You see, you may not realize it but we have already done everything you're doing now before and it is no longer any fun. I was there for The Howling when it first showed on HBO. I rented American Werewolf in London as a teenager and even though I was skeptical at first, I walked away from The Wolf with Jack Nicholson thinking; “Michelle is incredibly hot and Jack-n-James really kicked AZZ in that movie”. I remember thinking how could Hollywood possibly do another werewolf movie any better than what has been done before? Whew, you made the point finally stick- YOU SUCK! I am officially through with you, especially if your first name starts with Universal. Pieces of the soundtrack from King Kong? Combining the special effects of four other movies together as your “wild new effects”? Hiring an actor famous for his lack of speaking and pairing him with a great actor who then has no lines? Plot? Character development? You surely realize that anyone who sees this film will be writing the ending within the first twenty minutes right? Hollywood you couldn't get lamer. Thanks for nothing.

  7. mchops, I dissagree. Theres been quite a few films that a lot of people liked, despite the critics so-called opinion. Take “The Incredible Hulk”(2008) for example. The Critics in the news papers were saying unflattering things about the film(shame on those assholes!). But couple days later, the movie was ranked as #1 movie in the world. I heard it on tv. The point is that this movie could be great. and if this site said it's worth seeing, hell, I'll take they're word for it because this will be a movie that surely worth seeing. Personally, I have a feeling this'll be a hit and the film will have more depth and the storyline goes even deeper than the original as well. I have always been a wolfman fan and I have been looking forward to seeing it for a long while ever since they showed the first trailer on myspace.

  8. mmm… just saw it today and as much as i like your reviews Vic i am interested in seeing what people think once they see the movie. Are we going to have a spoiler discussion post as usual with big movies?

  9. Saw this movie yesterday was really disappointed! what a waste of good actors

  10. I'm guessing this comment is more for you than the movie, not to mention using the comment section of a positive review to host it. Speaking of said review, I'm guessing you didn't read it since you don't actually, well, COMMENT on it here?

    For me, I trust Vic over over big name critics. If he says it's a homage to classic horror movies like the original Wolfman, I'll check my modern sensibilities at the door and enjoy the vintage.

  11. Eh, I think people can just mark their comments SPOILER and post here on this one.

    I'm really perplexed about the reaction to this one…

  12. So does this mean you are going to see The Howling Reborn when it comes out later this year?

  13. I came out of this pretty underwhelmed. Not much in it felt particularly exciting or original. I'm not that much of a hater that i can't say there was some promising aspects to it.

    Good:
    -Hugo weaving and Anthony Hopkins
    -Transformation scenes
    -The opening attack at the gypsy camp was done very well, pretty much because it was the only suspenseful part in the whole movie plus it was great because you hardly saw the details of the wolf-man.
    - The gore was a good surprise.
    - The hamlet references were fun.

    Bad:
    -The head lopping looked silly, rest of the gore was great.
    - Though i usually love the use of practical effects in the place of CGI, i thought all the close-ups of the wolf-man just weren't convincing. I applaud the make-up artists at the same time though it just didn't believe it.
    - The CGI animals. Every showing of the deer or the bear in the camp was completely CGI and so obvious, it just drew me out of the movie.
    - The opening scene when his brother is killed was great but then in the middle of it the title “The Wolfman” came up, It was so sudden and obscurely placed.

    (Spoiler)

    As soon as we found out Hopkins was the first wolf-man i was pretty excited to see the inevitable fight that was to come. But then Hopkins didn't really turn into a wolf. Looked more like a gorilla. And sadly the fight scene was kind of cool but every time they sowed a close-up of the Hairy Hopkins it just once again drew me out of the excitement.
    Also the very end, i felt no emotion when she (i can't even remember her name her character was so underdeveloped) was choosing to the shoot The Wolf-man or not to shoot. Was not tense at all for me.

    (end spoiler)

    So all in all i thought while in some ways it was a good homage to good old monster movies, I in the end the production history sort of let it down into an awkward mess of a movie.

    Though do not fret fanboys of Captain America. The action and the whole movie was shot and seemed like it was directed very well. I am not Joe Johnston hater now as some people might be after this. I have positive hopes for Cap. still.

  14. I agree with a lot of what you said I could have cared less where they placed the title of the movie and I thought the makeup was done beautifully and looked very realistic. The CGI animals were unnecessary though, they never even had any interaction with the wolf lol! Just why? The problem is that the characters were so underdeveloped it made the whole movie pointless, I mean why remake a classic movie only for effects and styling alone? I mean they had Anthony Hopkins for gods' sake, not to mention the talented Del Toro and this is the best they could utilize them? They're merely statues amongst an impressive back drop. Such a waste.

  15. AMEN! Universal destroyed the Hulk franchise. Sony with Spider-man. And soon Johnston will destroy Captain America. I'm done with paying for crap films only because there's no other options. I choose now not to watch movies.

  16. I saw the film this weekend based on the trailer. Universal owes me 10 dollars for lying to me. But I won't see it back will I? So I will balance it out by refusing to watch Captain America…

  17. Vic, I so disagree with your review of Wolfman. But we can agree to disagree. I do not recommend anyone seeing this film especially during these hard economic times.

  18. You've got to be kidding. It WAS entertaining but characters were poorly developed, there was clearly evidence of post-production meddling by the “suits”. The film IS choppy for a reason–it's essentially TWO different films the one that Johnston originally intended to deliver and the one that preview audiences (never the best people to give suggestions on how to improve films–look what happened to “Blade Runner” for example)/suits and director had to revamp to get released.

    I'll be curious to see the extended edit which has 17 additional minutes (more exposition and character development) added back into the film. The dialogue is often badly written and Hopkins seems to be vamping importing quirks from other film performances.

    The film suffers most from a flawed screenplay and uncertainty in direction/tone.

  19. Im gonna balance Vic's review with overwhelming negative reviews for this one, and just wait for the DVD instead of the theater.

    I did already have a vague idea this movie might not cut it, with Del Toro being the lead and casting a stellar actor (Hugo Weaving) in a supporting role. That decision in itself made me think this movie was about dollars from the young uns and not a serious remake.

  20. Surprisingly Hugo Weaving was bad in this movie. He seemed stale at times and added nothing positive.

  21. I myself was torn with this movie. I really wanted to love it but i just ended up kind of liking it. I thought the Wolfman scenese were great and the storyline was okay but it was lacking several areas, mainly character development. I really did not feel for any of the characters and the love story between Del Toro and Blunt was poorly developed. There just was not enough chemistry there to warant such a powerful feeling between the two. Also the movie ended kind of poorly I felt and I was not that impressed. aside from that it was a good movie. There were some priceless scenes (like the one when Del Toro is is tied up in the mental institution and breeaks free and goes on a killing rampage) and there were some good moments BUT overall I would say that this is a good movie to see in theaters because it beats the other junk that is outthere by a mile.

  22. The wolf man is not better than theri origainla make.

  23. I saw this the other night, and I loved every second of it. Absolutely brilliant.

    This is what I call a horror film, and it proves that period horror is always the best. Modern movies, whether it be slasher or Gorno, just dont create the same level of creeping terror that movies like this can.
    The acting was top notch, Del Toro's restricted performance really added an air of believability to his character. Anthony Hopkins was his usual self, hamming it up, but still great to watch. Emily Blunt is hot.

    But the best acting in this movie, Hugo Weaving. He was great. I'd love to see that character again, maybe tell of his Ripper exploits. He is a talented actor who should really be in more things, he is so much more than Agent Smith.

    I have been a fan of Joe Johnston since he did The Rocketeer, one of my favourite movies, and I have complete faith that Captain America will be good.

    I must also add, Danny Elfman's score for this movie is superb, full of tormented and scratchy strings, fantastic music in this one.

  24. I agree with all of the above. Only good acting was Anthony Hopkins. And even though this is a somewhat remake of the classical, it was soo predictable, even the twist!.

    I love all horror genre's including B-movies, but I left the theatre so unsatisfied. It was like a woman trying to have sex with me for 2 hours but she just coudn't get me to want to pull down my pants!

    The gore was great but sometimes missused. I felt nothing for the characters accept maybe the Hindu Servant. LOL it was the guy from True Lies I think.

    And there was one GIANT mistake in the film.

    (SPOILER ALERT)

    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.

  25. Yeah, thanks for being one of the few people who wrote positive reviews. It did feel like an old horror movie most of the time and I have to say that I haven't been this impressed I don't remember for how long. Movies like this one give me hope that 2010 is turning out to be amazing!

  26. ********POSSIBLE SPOILERS**********

    Saw the movie, I enjoyed roughly the first half of it for most of the reasons you described, the film is shot just as if it were made 40 years ago and with the soundtrack, was absolutely beautiful. I am a person who enjoys classical movies because, well, they're usually better than the crappy eye-candy that shows up now a days, but honestly this movie didn't do it for me on the larger scale. Despite a very accurate, classical approach, the movie definitely has it's modern influences. After a certain point in the movie, you may feel as if everything is getting rushed to an end, loose ends are quickly tied up, there's some dialogue, which, i felt was impressive up until the madhouse, but definitely deteriorates by the end of the film, and after that a not too impressive fight scene you could have seen coming a mile away. And while I understand the ending in this film essentially pays homage to the whole concept of the original, it was well over dramatic and came off to me as pretentious.

    ********POSSIBLE SPOILERS**********

  27. To sum up, there were parts I enjoyed in this film, parts that I was very happy to see hadn't died in the movie industry. But overall I feel this movie has a more nostalgic cling than anything else. As one of the newer generation, I simply cannot get into that feeling as much as others may. I simply couldn't get pass the obvious 'formula' used in the movie or how disappointed I was by the ending.

  28. I went to watch this film solely based on this review and it was worth it.
    Although i did find the movie a little slow, the sudden scares were terrifying (in a good way) .

  29. really? 4 out of 5 for this movie and 3.5 out of 5 for shutter island? I'm never going to trust this website reviews again

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