The Wolfman – Blu-ray Review
By Frankie Dees May 31, 2010, 15:09 GMT
Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) and Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) tear up the screen in this action-packed thriller. Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) is lured back to his family estate to investigate the savage murder of his brother by a bloodthirsty beast. There, Talbot must confront his childhood demons, his estranged father (Hopkins), his brother’s grieving fiancée (Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada) and a suspicious ...more
Being a fan of classic Universal horror, I really have to give props to Universal for staying true to the original ‘Wolf Man’ in tone unlike, say, their more adventure-inclined remake of the ‘The Mummy’.
But, unfortunately, that’s where the props end as the big-budget ‘Wolfman’ remake is more a film to admire in attempt rather than achievement.
I imagine that most of the film’s issues go back to its extremely checkered past where original director Mark Romanek (‘One Hour Photo’) dropped out over budget concerns which left a specific director’s vision to be picked up by another director, Joe Johnston - last-minute with decidedly different sensibilities.
Johnston was, after all, the director of mostly kiddie fare like ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ and ‘Jumanji’ and who probably wanted the pic to be fun as well as brooding and atmospheric.
So as a theatrical release was announced and pushed back time and time again – February 2009, then November 2009 and then finally February 2010 – with word of various re-shoots, it’s no surprise the final film is a bit of a mess despite top-notch production values and an intriguing cast.
Most of the broad strokes of the original are hit with Benecio Del Toro taking over for the legendary Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot, an American actor performing in London (we forebodingly first see him in classic Hamlet pose with skull in hand).
Receiving news of his brothers disappearance, he makes the trek back to the family estate to catch up with dear ‘ol pop Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and a life he left behind under mysterious circumstances.
It becomes increasingly clear that Papa John is a few pepperoni’s short of a meat lover’s pizza no doubt helped along by the revealed brutal death of his presumably favorite son, Ben (the one who stayed behind, natch).
When some evidence of Ben’s death leads to a local gypsy camp, Lawrence sets out to unearth answers and finds gypsy woman Maleva warning him of a great evil.
No sooner is he warned of this evil than a wolf-like creature wreaks havoc on the camp leaving a lot of human hamburger meat in its wake. Ignoring the concerns of both father and crazy gypsy woman, he follows a distraught kid into the woods with the thought of rescue only to get a bite on the shoulder for his trouble.
And so the film starts proper with Lawrence being nursed back to health by Ben’s widow Gwen (Emily Blunt) but suffering from some horrendous dreams, dreams that hint of a familial curse.
When inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) shows up from London to investigate the murders, Lawrence becomes a prime suspect due to his shady past and though he has yet to draw blood he will indeed do “terrible things.” And to escape this homicidal blight, Lawrence must first confront his disturbing past.
The script was no doubt butchered like the poor townsfolk of Blackmoor as surely seasoned pro’s Andrew Kevin Walker (‘Seven’) and David Self (‘The Road to Perdition’) can’t be responsible for such a stilted, bloated mess.
The script is overlong and unnecessarily devoid of much fun with the fantastic roster of what are essentially A-list character actors doing what they can but mostly falling prey, ahem, to an uphill battle with the words.
Particularly, Hopkins suffers and seems to resort to gargling with the dialogue like Listerine and spitting it out when dealt an uninteresting hand.
Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving are ok but equally bland and Del Toro is really trying hard to add depth to the role but the disjointed feel of the film never allows him to make much ground.
What does work in the film and work amazingly well is the fantastic tech credits from the flawless production design from Rick Heinrichs and the atmospheric cinematography of Shelly Johnson to the subtly creepy score from Danny Elfman.
The make-up f/x from Rick Baker is predictably awesome but it’s hard not to be disappointed by the over reliance of CGI in most of the action sequences.
The werewolf transformation has a iconic cinematic history and unfortunately, this big-budget werewolf pic has little to add in that department although Joe Johnston and the studio wisely decided to embrace the actual ‘horror’ of the concept with a hard-R rating that doesn’t skimp on the gore.
The film is presented with a 1080p 1.85:1 AVC encode that does a commendable job handling the consistently dark and gloomy sequences which are generally the hardest to squeeze any detail out of.
Black levels are strong if a bit hit and miss but high-def is obviously the desired format to take in the great period details. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is pounding as expected.
The Blu-ray disc includes both the theatrical cut and the unrated director’s cut that runs sixteen minutes longer. The lone special feature also found on the DVD is the ‘Deleted & Extended Scenes’, an 11-minute group of scenes which were questionably cut. Everything else seems exclusive to the Blu-ray.
First up is the cool BD-Live function of streaming the original ‘The Wolf Man’ from 1941 and really hints at what the format and BD-Live is capable of. While some may prefer to have a separate disc of ‘The Wolf Man’, you can’t really complain about having the ability to watch the original pic for free.
Also notable is Universal’s patented ‘U-Control’ feature which includes ‘Legacy, Legend and Lore’, a trivia/PiP track, and ‘Take Control’, another PiP track which allows the various crew to pipe in.
We also get two ‘Alternate Endings’ which are worth a watch, ‘Return of ‘The Wolfman’, which is a quick featurette on the myth of the werewolf, ‘The Beast Maker’, a quick look at Rick Baker’s make-up effects, ‘Transformation Secrets’, which looks at the, duh, transformations and ‘The Wolfman Unleashed’, a featurette on the stuntwork involved in the film.
Rounding things out is the digital copy and the usual array of interesting BD-Live features like My Scenes, My Movie Commentary and ‘Pocket Blu’ and ‘Social Blu’.
The overall Blu-ray package is great and is a perfect example of how providing ample incentives outside of an otherwise mediocre film will really up the merit of a purchase.
The film can’t be considered anything but a disappointment but I believe it’s certainly worth a watch for classic horror fans.
Visit the DVD database for more information.
FROM THE WEB
Further Reading on M&CAnthony Hopkins Biography -
Anthony Hopkins Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesBenicio Del Toro Biography -
Benicio Del Toro Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesEmily Blunt Biography -
Emily Blunt Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sitesHugo Weaving Biography -
Hugo Weaving Links - M&C is not responsible for the content in external sites
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