Sunday, February 14, 2010

THE WOLFMAN: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving
Director: Joe Johnston
Runtime: 102 min.
Verdict: A shoddily put together film on a psychologically interesting premise.
Genre: Horror, Thriller

        I mean, what are the odds? Lawrence Talbot (Mr. Del Toro), the prodigal son returns, to investigate the brutal slaughter of his brother, only to become a werewolf himself. So, now, two monsters exist, one the evil one, and the other the antihero. Like in all good superhero films, here the archenemy has created his nemesis. Young Lawrence, creates mayhem at first, and then is shipped to London into an asylum where he creates mayhem again, and then heads back to his village to slay the archenemy and end this madness. Guess what? The ending happens on a full moon day. Granted Lawrence walks back to his village to avoid being captured. But not one day before, or one day afterwards. Bang on full moon is when the climactic monster wrestle-mania is scheduled. Dear reader, wouldn’t it be something if a movie would just let loose the two men against each other, and not the obligatory monster versions? I ask this question not as some silly contrarian response, but because, here, in this upgraded version of The Wolfman, where the whole monster thingy is just a metaphor for oedipal issues, it makes sense to let the calmer, saner versions bring out the real monsters to the table and settle all the guilt and accusations once and for all.
        Now, that doesn’t happen. The Wolfman has had several production problems, and a CGI showdown, it seems, is a business requirement put down by studio executives. Not that my ending would be a terribly anti-climatic either, but still, a risk is hardly worth taking in this climate. Never mind. This is still a solid film, shoddily made, but several redeeming factors in it. Take for instance, the absolute monstrosity of Lawrence when he is a werewolf. He isn’t the sulky kind, like say The Incredible Hulk, who upon the mere presence of Jennifer Connelly’s beautiful eyes shrinks down. The Wolfman is an absolute monster. He is irredeemable. He doesn’t care who stands before him. Whether it is a wife, a lover, a trusted friend or a son. He has no morality. He just rips apart people and buries his face and pulls out their intestines. It doesn’t matter if the victim is one of those smug annoying supporting characters or some innocent bystander. It is laudable how the film manages to portray violence and drives home that there is no way out for this monster but death. Or kill your conscience, become a complete monster, even when you are not the werewolf. The only thing the film stops short of showing is having some nice little kid being butchered.
        So, when in the end, the Wolfman is confronted by his love, Gwen Conliffe (Ms. Blunt) as he is about to attack her, and all the monster movies, from The Fly to The Incredible Hulk run in our minds, and we wonder if there is hope for this monster, the argument you hit upon is what would happen if these two end up marrying each other. How much can she really calm him? For how long? When does her patience run out? When does his patience run out? And you know what happens is what should happen. That your feelings for the protagonist run along as prescribed is quite something.
        By every other means, this is a well made standard creature feature. The plot is all over the place, and at some places makes no sense. I don’t mind. What you mind is your choice. Still, the film is clearly narrated, with no apparent over-eagerness to jump to the CGI. There are good performances, yet the relationships amongst the characters make more of a literal sense than emotional. Mr. Weaving, I need to mention with a special note. He has an almost Bond-esque presence about him that is almost unnerving. I would like to see him as a monster.

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