“Even a remaker who is pure of heart,
And says his prayers at night,
can make a turd when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”
Those are my thoughts on the recent remake of The Wolf Man. The 1941 film (FULL REVIEW) is one of my all time favorites. Sure, the effects are dated and the beast looks a bit like a toothy hipster with a Jew-fro, but the story has a lot of heart. Larry Talbot is a likable lug and a bit of a doofus, as we see him clumsily corner Gwen for a date in her antique shop. He falls into the werewolf curse by pure circumstance, and suffers the fatal destiny it bequeaths upon him. It is a sad and tragic tale. What it lacks in gore and terror, it delivers in pathos for its protagonist, who turns into a beast under the full moon and attacks those he loves. It can be taken as allegory; rather like the Nick Lowe song “The Beast in Me,” about a drunk.
The remake, despite giving us Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and even Art Malik- the bad guy from True Lies– goes for pure gore and a hackneyed, tortured artist story that generates zero pathos and instead makes us sit around wondering what orifice we’ll see wolf claws sprout from on a Bobby’s agonized corpse next. As special effects go, Rick Baker does a great job. The mastermind behind the excellent An American Werewolf in London (FULL REVIEW) effects, he goes hog wild here, making a hunkering, slavering beast of a wolf man to terrify the moors. The CG effects that make the beast hop around the landscape as realistically as Mario on Nintendo seriously detract from the mood. He hops on policemen like they are goombas, eviscerating them and moving on to the next. In most werewolf movies, they at least take a bite out of you. This one seems to make a game out of how many people he can kill before dawn.
Which is fine for a slasher. But this one wants us to take it seriously, with its Daddy Issues and having to make a good wolf man vs.a bad wolf man, which we already saw in Jack Nicholson’s Wolf, a much better re-imagining of the original. This one has its moments, but doesn’t serve as a respectable homage. If anything, it is worth seeing to watch Rick Baker pull out all the stops. Director Joe Johnston, who brought us decent adventure with The Rocketeer and Hidalgo, goes the same route that Stephen Sommers did for The Mummy, but without the fun. I would have preferred someone who loved the first movie, or the genre. Like Joe Dante, for example. I can’t imagine watching the remake again, and it makes me dread the planned remake of An American Werewolf in London.
And what’s with the title? Wolfman? Maybe his full name is Lawrence Talbot Wolfman.
© 2010 Tommy Salami