Thursday, May 5, 2016

Werewolf Che Guevara, or Thoughts on Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman

The 2010 Wolfman is an updated and gorgeous A-list remake of the 1941 movie with Benicio Del Toro taking over Lon Chaney Jr.’s classic role as Lawrence Talbot, the unlucky lycanthrope.  It begins with a vintage Universal logo in sepia and the original quote from Curt Siodmark’s screenplay, and the audience gets to see the wolfman in the first minute, even before the title sequence.
In addition to Benicio, The Wolfman features Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Emily Blunt, with music by Danny Elfman and makeup by the legendary Rick Baker.  The screenplay was by Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote Seven (1995).  In fact, the only relatively unknown quantity in this remake is director Joe Johnston, whose credits to date included The Rocketeer (1991) Jumanji (1991) and Jurassic Park III (2001).
The movie had a $150 million budget, an absurd amount of money, and it shows in every scene.  Subtle, yet expensive color corrected CGI gives the entire film an atmospheric, antiqued look without washing out the colors.  The stellar cast practically guarantees some memorable performances.  Unfortunately the gorgeous costumes and sets won’t save shaky directing and anemic writing.  It’s like a house built on a foundation of golden bricks that still collapses, ultimately bloodless and no fun, even with an R rating.
Benicio Del Toro is unconvincing, both as a 19th Century actor, and an American in Victorian England.  He certainly has the physical presence and should be an excellent upgrade from Lon Chaney Jr. but he’s too modern; his syntax and delivery is off, and his performance is awkward and stiff.  Even in his werewolf form he seems joyless, and exhibits none of the tragic qualities of the original movie.  His romance with Emily Blunt, an integral part of the original film, seems forced and superfluous.
I wanted to like this, and on a superficial level I appreciate the detail and effort the movie made to recreate scenes like a Victorian madhouse or a crumbling castle on the moors.  But The Wolfman is not scary enough to be a proper horror movie and it takes itself far too seriously.  Movies like these use humor to break the tension and The Wolfman is surprisingly humorless, which isn’t so bad because there’s no tension anyway.

There is however a cameo by Hollywood royalty Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter, and Oona’s mother) as Maleva, the Gypsy Queen.  Still beautiful at 66, she adds some much needed passion and mystery to the production.  Rick Baker won an Oscar for Best Makeup, though it’s not like he needed another one, he already had 6, starting with the far superior An American Werewolf in London (1981).

my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.