By Sandra Kraisirideja
Benicio Del Toro is a terrific actor but a lousy werewolf.
However, Del Toro isn’t the only stellar actor to perform poorly in “The Wolfman; his co-star, Anthony Hopkins, also does a lackluster job.
How did this happen?
For starters, “The Wolfman” is a boring, mediocre movie. It’s not even the slightest bit scary and it takes itself much too seriously. The action scenes are incredibly violent and gory and completely out of place given the visual style of the movie, which evokes Victorian-era England with all its dampness and fog.
Director Joe Johnston and screenwriters Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self deserve most of the blame for “The Wolman” not performing on a creative level. Johnston focuses more on the costume drama aspects of the movie rather than its horror lineage. The script is also very stilted and somber, as if Walker and Self forgot they were writing a monster movie and decided to write dialogue for a Merchant-Ivory production.
To some degree werewolf mythology is just not as interesting as vampire mythology and the filmmakers can’t be blamed for that. They tried to make it interesting by creating a backstory for Del Toro’s character that shows how his transformation into a werewolf was always part of his destiny. The angle is not strong enough, however, to give the script a solid foundation and in the end the whole movie becomes ridiculous and overly melodramatic.
According to legend, werewolves appear once a month on a full moon. The werewolf curse is passed on to victims after they have been bitten by another werewolf. Werewolves are typically strong, fast and have an insatiable desire to hunt and kill. The killing in “The Wolfman” is indiscriminate, horrifying and done without explanation. The audience can’t sympathize with the creature, even with Del Toro’s sad hound dog eyes, because he’s just shown as a wild beast that viciously attacks men, women and children for no reason.
Special effects and makeup have always been a key ingredient in any werewolf movie. “An American Werewolf in London” blew audiences away with its graphic depiction of star David Naughton morphing into a ferocious animal with a realism that had not been seen before. Rick Baker won an Oscar for his work on the movie and he lends his talents to “The Wolfman,” but without the same results. The effects are OK, but Johnston didn’t shoot the sequence in a way that really gets the most bang for the buck. There is a lot of CGI in the action sequences where Del Toro is running through London, but the juxtaposition of low-tech 19th century England–there’s a lot of candles in this movie–with high-tech CGI and special effects doesn’t work.
Emily Blunt, who plays Del Toro’s love interest, is the only one actor who fits her role and performs well. Her brief scenes are not enough to save the movie, however, and with any luck being a part of it won’t harm her blossoming Hollywood career.
“The Wolfman” opens nationwide Feb. 12.
Photo: (L to R) Mr. Conliffe (Robert East), Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) and Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) in the action-horror inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, “The Wolfman.” Courtesy of Universal.