(15) 125 min
This remake of the classic 1941 creature feature was a project close to Benicio del Toro’s heart, not only does he take the lead role but also a producer credit. However a shifting release date is often the sign of a problematic production, with original director Mark Romanek leaving and Joe Johnson (best known for his big budget action such as Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo and Jumanji) stepping into the breach just three weeks before principal photography. However despite the backstage wrangling this 21st century werewolf movie still manages to be suitably entertaining.
Lawrence Talbot (del Toro) returns to his ancestral home of Blackmoor, but is bitten while helping to hunt down the mysterious beast that killed his brother. As the next full moon rises he unleashes his lupine fury but is soon consigned to an asylum, as love interest Emily Blunt consults with clichéd gypsies on how to end this curse forever.
While Victorian England is brought to life with considerable style, harking back to Hammer Horror with sets shrouded in mist, this shares more in common with Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula revamp and Hugh Jackman action romp Van Helsing. The set pieces are impressive and bloody but this is more of an action blockbuster than a period horror, never afraid of resorting to cheap scares and jump tactics.
Del Toro is perfect for the role, oozing an animalistic intensity. However the romance between del Toro and a simpering Blunt feels rushed, but it’s an impressive cast and Anthony Hopkins (as del Toro’s father) suits the material with a grandiose OTT performance while Hugo Weaving (as Inspector Abberline) is as impressive as always.
Of course any werewolf film earns its stripes with its transformation scene, and Wolfman’s are impressive as bones shift and crack before revealing an homage to Lon Chaney Jr’s classic make up (this time by king of werewolf effects, Rick Baker, who also provided the ground breaking transformation sequences in both The Howling and An American Werewolf in London).
Unfortunately there’s an over reliance on CGI and The Wolfman certainly has its sillier moments, particularly the climatic confrontation. Good fun but don’t expect any psychological depth examining the beast within.
Out now on general release.