From the director of Jurassic Park 3; Seven words that filled me with utter dread when it was announced that Joe Johnston would be taking over the reins of The Wolfman after initial choice Mark Romanek dropped out. Apparently Johnston was chosen because he was the only one who agreed to complete the film on budget. Hardly an indictment of quality. However, after a rather dull 20 opening minutes, the film transforms into a gruesome gothic gore fest.
Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro -looking creepy even before the transformation) returns home to his ancestral home after the mysterious death of his brother. While investigating on behalf of his widow Gwen (Emily Blunt, delightful but underused), he is attacked by a feral creature and come the next full moon…well you know the rest.
Johnston has kept the feel of the film refreshingly old school, harking back to the 1941 original. Shafts of light penetrate each darkened room as Johnston tries (somewhat successfully) to create a climate of fear.
The show really kicks off when the beast within Del Toro is unleashed. Make-up maestro Rick Baker does his best work for years to create a human creature that is refreshingly low on CGI. Although no transformation will ever top An American Werewolf in London, they don’t shy away from the pain and show several stages of the process.
The best decision Universal have made was not to pare down the deaths for a 12a audience. Heads are lopped off, blood is spilt by the gallon and let’s make it clear that this is gory not gorno. Gross without being sickening.
Del Toro is given little time to establish any chemistry with Blunt, which is a shame as they are both excellent actors. It feels as if a whole story arc was left on the cutting room floor. As for Anthony Hopkins, well it seemed as if he was reading his lines in a coma early in the film, but give it time and what emerges is one of his most understated and enjoyable performances for years.
A refreshingly irony free, non box office baiting, bit of fun.