Quick Hit: Full of loving gothic imagery, the CGI violence goes a bit too far to be stellar.
I actually vividly remember when this came out. I was really into monsters, and the fact that it was a contemporary remake of my favorite Universal film was really cool. And surprisingly, compared to Dracula Untold and The Mummy (2017), it’s actually pretty good.
That’s because first – they set it in the correct period, which is something that Dracula Untold actually got right. Second, they embraced the fact that the story is better when it takes its time. It’s quite a bit of time before we actually see the Wolf Man – which is the way it should be. When you give away the monster within the first minute or two, it’s really not much fun. We get teases, and the imagery around these teases is fantastic.
Set in the English countryside, there is nothing around the Talbot mansion. Sure, there is the town within riding distance, but otherwise, they’re alone out there. That, coupled with the fact that despite gas lamps being extremely common, the man of the house (Anthony Hopkins, in a role that I still hear him say “Lawrence” from in my dreams – or nightmares) makes due with candles. The house is dilapidated, leading to a haunted feel instantly from when young Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns after being beset by the fiancée (Emily Blunt!!) of his now dead brother.
The performances are actually pretty good, IMO. When the movie came out, a lot of people said that Del Toro was too varied, and that Hopkins was a bit odd. I can’t see it really. Del Toro gives a performance that does a young Larry Talbot justice, because he plays him tragically. Indeed, the first time we see him, in an excellent piece of foreshadowing, he’s playing in Hamlet – THE tragedy. When the movie progresses enough that Hugo Weaving shows up, your All-Star cast grows even further (though I couldn’t help but draw a comparison from Mister Talbot to Mister Anderson in his voice and tone at times).
Honestly the only thing keeping me from giving this movie a full endorsement is the overuse of CGI. Like so many movies in this decade, the CGI keeps the movie from feeling real in any sense of the word. When the monster emerges, the violence is incredible and vicious, as it should be, but it’s also over-the-top. The transformation, which is pretty good, also forgoes the practical effects in a way that is really unfortunate. When you compare the transformation in say, An American Werewolf in London to this one, the practical effects are obviously superior. Do they take longer and are more expensive? Yes. Would I prefer them as a moviegoer? Yes.
Overall, as far as staying true to the tone of the original and making an entertaining film, I’d say that Joe Johnston (director) had a winner on his hands. It’s disappointing more people didn’t think so. I’m giving this one a “B+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"