Across the internet, Joe Johnston’s remake of Universal’s classic ‘The Wolfman’ from 1941 has a pretty mixed reaction from film fans everywhere: some like it; some think it’s okay at best; and a very few love it – but, for the most part, when this film is brought up, it comes with a slew of opinions that lean towards the negative side of the spectrum. And that is perfectly okay: we don’t all have to agree – opinions are subjective, after all, and sometimes differing opinions makes for interesting and thoughtful discussions. There is no right and no wrong when it comes to discussing movies, there is only personal preference and conversation.
So, with that, I ask: is ‘The Wolf Man’ (2010) really that bad?
The answer to that question all depends on who you ask. Personally, I’m in the minority of people who love it, although my experience and knowledge of the movie is from the Director’s Cut, which is the superior version of this movie, and a big improvement over the Theatrical Cut. If you’ve seen the movie in theaters or on the television, you’ve seen a fairly choppy and rushed version. One example of this is the difference in the opening sequence: The Theatrical Cut begins with a montage that inter-cuts Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) arriving in Blackmore, and Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) writing a letter to Lawrence in regards to the disappearance of his brother, Ben, as her letter is read as a voice-over. The Director’s Cut takes its time, and plants the seeds of the films central conflict. Here, we begin with Gwen approaching Lawrence after a stage performance of Hamlet in London. She informs him that Ben is missing, but Lawrence is reluctant to return home due to his estranged relationship with his father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins). When he does venture home, there is a sense of dread and melancholy between the imagery and Danny Elfman’s score, which in my opinion, makes Lawrence’s story that much more tragic by the end – whereas the score and imagery of the Theatrical Cut opening seemed a bit more triumphant and devoid of tone. I think that overall the Director’s Cut felt more complete, and legit, as movie and added a bit more depth to the characters, particularly revolving around the distant and conflicted relationship between Lawrence and John, which is an interesting spin to contrast the relationship between the two character’s in George Waggner’s 1941 film with Lon Chaney Jr. and Claude Rains, which was a warm father/son bond. I know some people who didn’t particularly care for the twist with John in the remake, but I thought it worked well and makes total sense with everything else that happens in the movie.
One of the things that I most love about this remake is that it remains faithful enough to the classic film, while also taking it in a different direction and doing its own thing. This film was done with love and respect for the original while giving it its own identity in the process, and it shows on the screen. The film takes itself seriously, as a remake of the classic, and as a horror movie. The script, cinematography, direction, costume design and set design are all top notch; this wasn’t a generic movie from less capable hands just looking to cash a paycheck – the efforts of the crew behind this movie are on display in every scene. I’d also like to give a shout out to Danny Elfman’s score, which is one of his finest in the last twenty years – at least in my opinion.
A huge complaint made against this film is the visual effects: it’s unfortunate that the one thing most people remember about this movie is the terrible computer-generated images for the transformation sequences. I agree whole heartedly that the CGI is fucking awful, especially during one scene near the end of the second act where Lawrence transforms in a chair in front of a crowd of people – but there’s another aspect of the visual effects that’s incredible, and that is Rick Baker’s make-up effects. Baker is truly a master of his craft and the look of the Wolf Man is amazing. Baker’s update of the original Wolf Man design is very faithful to Jack Pierce’s work from the 1941 film, but modified to look more threatening and monstrous. It’s really a shame and a missed opportunity for them to bring Baker in for the make-up effects and not utilize him for the transformations – I mean he is the guy responsible for the single greatest transformation sequence ever to be put on screen in 1981’s ‘An American Werewolf in London’ – it kind of baffles me that they made the decision to go with computer-generated when you have Rick Baker on the crew.
I do understand some of the complaints about this film: Benicio’s performance seems a little hammy at times, Emily Blunt is pretty one-note and wooden, and the CGI is shit, but there is also a lot of great things in this movie as well: the violence and gore are well done; Anthony Hopkins delivers an excellent performance as John Talbot; As mentioned above, Rick Baker’s make-up effects are great; Danny Elfman’s score is effective; and finally, it’s actually a well shot film.
Overall, I look at this as an underrated movie that’s unfairly shit on by many people and I feel that it deserves a second look from those critical of it. But, that’s just me. This doesn’t mean I’m right or that a second viewing will change everyone’s mind, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as some make it out to be. If you do give it another shot, be sure to watch the Unrated Director’s Cut for the best experience of this movie.
So, what do you think of ‘The Wolf Man’ (2010)? Do you like it? Love it? Hate it? If so, why? Let’s discuss this movie!