Friday, February 12, 2010

A Bloody, Noisy "Wolfman"

Lon Chaney, Jr. Still Rules

“The Wolfman” does not suck. It bites. Oh how it bites.
To me Lon Chaney, Jr. is still the definitive Lawrence Talbot, the poor bloke who is destined to turn into a snarling wolf at the full moon. Chaney brought such a melancholy air to the role. You just know he hated himself for being such a beast.
Benecio Del Toro’s Talbot is also filled with self-loathing, but he has a lot of anger too, and when he transforms he is more like The Hulk than a lycanthrope, impervious to lead bullets.
I blame director Joe Johnston for the over-the-top qualities of this ridiculously gory, wacko violent R-rated movie. Johnston worked as a special effects guy with George Lucas on the first “Star Wars,” and he went on to make a bundle for Universal Pictures with ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and its gimmicky sequels.
“The Wolfman’ has a long and tortured genesis. Mark Romanek, the original director, left over “creative differences,” and the original screenplay, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, was tossed out in favor of a new one by David Self.
You know a movie is in trouble when it is repeatedly delayed. The original release date was Nov. 12, 2008. I suspect it was delayed to add thrills, chills and gunplay rather than dramatic content.
The good news is that Benecio del Toro and Emily Blunt work very well together as Talbot and Gwen Conliffe, the good girl who has the potential to release the Wolfman from his curse.
On the other hand we have Anthony Hopkins chewing scenery by the yard as Lawrence’s dad, Sir John Talbot.
It is London, 1891. As in the 1941 Chaney movie, Lawrence comes home to his family estate to investigate the disappearance of his brother. Again as in the original Lawrence gets bitten.
There is a strategic plot change in this new version that an alert viewer can spot from a mile away, but I will say no more.
Hugo Weaving does yeoman duty as dogged Scotland Yard Inspector Aberline, and Cristina Contes is haunting in her wordless role as Solana Talbot, Lawrence’s sainted mom.
There is nothing else subtle in this noisy, messy bloodbath. If you want to be hit over the head with the obvious, this is your movie.

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