The Wolfman has everything you’d expect: a furry man-beast, gallons of blood, a few stray organs, ominous characters and howling at the moon. Top all of that off with a stellar cast, effective score and mesmerizing set design and you think you’d have a masterpiece. You could have the finest ingredients in the world, throw them in a bowl and still burn the final product into uneatable char. Director Joe Johnston collected all of the prestigious components, tossed them in the pot and hoped for the best. Oops. Looks like Johnston forgot to set the timer, because his final product is totally undercooked.
Upon receiving a desperate letter from his brother’s fiancée Gwen (Emily Blunt), Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro) feels compelled to return home to Blackmoor, England. After Lawrence is informed that his brother is no longer missing, but his body has been found torn to pieces, he sets out to find the beast responsible. Sure enough, while on the hunt, Lawrence is bitten by the mysterious creature ultimately turning him into the monster himself.
High anticipation gives the first 30 minutes a significant energy boost, but once this false suspense wears off, The Wolfman is just plain old boring. Johnston has noble intentions, but never achieves that coveted connection between the audience and the film. Not only does Lawrence suffer from childhood woes, he’s plagued by a curse that turns him into the wolfman at every full moon and goes on murderous rampages killing innocent people. But, you know what? Who really cares?
Del Toro would have nailed his role if he didn’t mumble every damn line. He spends so much of the film walking around muttering that by the time he shows a hint of emotion it’s too off-putting to appreciate its meaning. Hopkins doesn’t do much to assist his co-star. But at least Hopkins is kind enough to give his murmuring a more ominous tone to break up the monotony. Making matters worse, a significant portion of the film’s emotional impact comes from the father-son relationship. Del Toro and Hopkins’ weak performances make this significant element detached.
Del Toro’s inability to express passion doesn’t stop there; he manages to turn the relationship between Lawrence and Gwen into a wholly one-sided connection. Blunt barely has to utter a word to portray the appropriate sensation, making her dialogue exponentially more effective. The other shining star is Hugo Weaving. His character, Inspector Abberline, is largely neglected and lacks depth, but Weaving successfully turns him into a sinister and sarcastic officer making him both unnerving and oddly amusing.
What somewhat saves The Wolfman from a bloated and vain script, is a handful of exhilarating action sequences. The massacre scenes are filled with buckets of gore and cheap thrills. Desperation to keep up with the lightning fast wolfman creates a high-tension situation. Knowing that the beast will ultimately descend upon his prey, tearing the individual to shreds, maintains a constant sense of alarm. The best of the bunch is the scene highlighted in the film’s trailer during which Lawrence is strapped to a chair as he mutates. This is Johnston’s shining moment for he actually nails every shot creating an utterly terrifying experience.
Sadly, that’s the film’s sole flawless portion. It’s almost as though Johnston knew what he wanted to accomplish, but never got the job done. The pieces are there, but they’re neither depicted nor assembled properly rendering the entire thing completely feeble. The legend of the wolfman is supposed to be a haunting concept capable of inflicting a hefty dose of terror guaranteed to keep you awake at night. The Wolfman is a mere spectacle of that legend with minimal depth and zero authenticity.