Monday, February 15, 2010

The Wolfman, Part Deux (To Whom It May Concern--This Is A Review)

I went to see The Wolfman over the weekend--as a matter of fact, on Valentine's Eve, which was to all intents and purposes our Valentine's date, because the day itself was one long homework session. But that's neither here nor there--this is a review of the film.

And I just can't figure out why the critics are so stupid. This wasn't trying to be a great epic edgy new-ground-covering superwin of a movie: The Wolfman is an homage to the original black-and-white Wolfman. There are so, so many examples of this relationship that I just have to detail some of them:

1. The opening title--heck, even the opening shot. SO 1941--SO not 2010. But there it is.

2. The characters' names, for crying out loud!

3. Danny Elfman's excellent score, which is atmospheric and moody and very 1940s-horror-flick.

4. Artistic direction; there's not a lot of color in The Wolfman. I mean, it's filmed in color, but the filters and the lighting are such that it ends up being a very black-and-white-looking film.

5. Related to the above, Del Toro's Wolfman looks like Lon Chaney's Wolf Man. The Wolfman has a very traditional look.

That's all I'll say for now, because I don't want to spoil it. Plot-wise, the story hangs together. I think the writers are to be praised for trying to build an interesting and fresh narrative that brings something newer to the table than "Oh deary me, I'm a lycanthrope! Whatever shall I do? I sure hope I don't maul my loved ones!" They succeed, for the most part--I found some of the dialogue somewhat stilted, and the characters behave illogically sometimes, but on the whole The Wolfman has an enthralling story.

Much has been made of Del Toro's understated performance as Lawrence Talbot, and I couldn't disagree more with the critics who call him wooden and flat. Sure, he's not over-the-top, but that's fine! Lawrence Talbot is a man accustomed to being someone else; as a tragedian (we get tantalizing glimpses of Talbot on-stage), Talbot is unparalleled. Then, after he is bitten, he has to get used to regularly transforming into something other than who he is. Given this duality in his personality, I don't think at all that an understated performance is a problem. For me, it made the tragedy of his life that much more poignant, that he confronts it so naturally.

Anthony Hopkins, too, and Emily Blunt, are absolutely amazing in their roles. I would have liked a bit more emotion out of Blunt, who seems strangely impassive about all this horror, but I can't complain. She delivers a complex and compelling character, and so does Hopkins. Famous for his static villain Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins gives Sir John a grotesque mystique that simultaneously repels and intrigues.

And now...Hugo Weaving.


The man is unstoppable. Will he EVER have a subpar performance? And as soon as I saw the cut of his beard, I knew what would happen to him at the end. He is utterly convincing as the Yard detective obsessed with solving this mystery. His character is intriguing, because of how it blurs the line between antagonist and protagonist. He's in full Agent Smith mode, but how can one blame him for his actions? He ends up somewhere in the middle, and it's as much a tribute to Weaving's acting as it is to the scriptwriters' ability that Weaving doesn't stray into straight-up villain territory.

Okay, rave over. The film is incredibly gory--verging on gratuitously so--and the transformations are especially disturbing. I recommend this film, but only to those with strong stomachs. I'll give it 8/10.

Long live homages!

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