US (dir. Joe Johnston)
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving, Art Malik
Synopsis: Upon his return to his ancestral homeland, an American man is bitten, and subsequently cursed by, a werewolf.
Review: Ever wonder what a $150 million werewolf movie would look like? Well with a price tag that puts it at the top of the list of expensive werewolf movies, you’d expect 2010’s “The Wolfman” to be a pretty damn good movie. Unfortunately, after watching “The Wolfman” I’ve determined that a $150 million werewolf movie looks a great deal like wolf scat (translation: shit).
When you think of embarrassingly bad movies, hopefully not a lot comes to your mind. I’ve seen my fair share of crap, but “The Wolfman” sinks to a brand new low. It actually sets the horror movie remake bar even lower than 2010’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” managed to. In this case, “The Wolfman” is a remake of 1941s “The Wolf Man”, which though I haven’t seen, cannot possibly be as bad as this giant turd of a film, because the universe could not possibly allow that to happen. Seriously. It would unbalance The Force to have there be another movie in existence that is as bad as “The Wolfman”. One would have to really see this film to get a sense of just how absolutely awful it is. It’s unbelievable that this abomination was even released.
First off, this film is badly edited. I don’t know much about editing films, but I can tell right off the bat that there is something wrong with how this film was cut. Apparently, the initial cut of the film was so bad, Walter Murch and Mark Goldblatt were called in to re-cut it. Now Murch and Goldblatt may not be familiar names to you, but these guys are huge in the editing world. Murch was responsible for editing “The Godfather” trilogy and “Apocalypse Now” and Goldblatt edited “The Terminator” and “The Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. Judging by these titles alone you may be able to instantly tell that these guys know what they are doing, and that they are seasoned veterans in every sense of the word. Now maybe that original cut was so bad that there was little to salvage, but Jesus Christ, is the final cut ever badly edited. There appears to be major errors in continuity and certain events appear to have no connection to events from the past or to events that will happen in the future. Granted there are no major goofs, but my god, if you have a film fade to black more than a few times there is a serious problem. Guess they were just preparing the movie for its eventual run on television where the fading to black would allow for the whole “You are watching, “The Wolfman”! on City TV! Brought to you by: INSERT FABRIC SOFTENER AD HERE” spiel.
If audience members are wondering things to themselves like “Hey, didn’t they just say _____ , and now _____ is happening instead?” or “where did _____ go all of a sudden?” then there is a serious problem with the film. See from what I understand, editing isn’t like simply doing a metaphorical “spell-check” on a film, it involves putting the pieces of the film together to form a coherent story with a good flow. “The Wolfman” doesn’t have that… at all. The film feels chopped to bits, like the scenes were thrown into a blender. One scene in particular, where a gypsy woman mentions the werewolf curse can be broken by true love, gives the movie some sort of a direction (okay, so he has to fall in love with someone…) but then it never amounts to anything because several scenes later when the wolfman’s love interest consults the gypsy woman’s daughter on how to break the curse, her only response is something along the lines of “he’s fucked”. There are also these absolutely ludicrous flashback scenes with a slowed down, almost ghostly, doubling effect, the kind of effect used in comedies to show a drunk person’s perspective.
Why the fuck was that not edited out or re-shot without that crappy doubling effect? They apparently re-shot plenty of scenes anyways after that disastrous first cut was seen, so why not re-shot those embarrassing flashback scenes as well? Did they really think the audience would be incapable of discerning between present time reality and flashback sequences, thus requiring a doubling effect?
Even Danny Elfman’s score is sub-par. Apparently he was hired, fired, and then re-hired when his replacement concocted an, electronic (?) score for this Victorian era werewolf movie. God, would it have just been fucking hilarious to have seen a movie with a werewolf tearing up 19th century London to an electronic beat. Well, the score they kept for the movie is the sort of unoriginal stuff Elfman has been pumping out since he was pretty much “over” around the time he did the score for “Sleepy Hollow”, so I suppose the less said about that, the better.
Lawrence Talbot, the film’s hero (or anti-hero, I guess… I don’t really quite give a fuck what he is either way) is never given a proper introduction. When we first see him, he’s portraying Hamlet in a play, and he’s not really doing anything to help us form a proper opinion of him. Apparently, his brother has gone missing and the brother’s fiancee, Gwen, is attempting to bring him home so that he may help search for him. There’s something mentioned (either by Gwen or Lawrence) about Gwen having sent Lawrence a letter about it beforehand, so I’m confused as to why it was necessary for her to track him down at his workplace to reiterate what she already probably told him in the letter. Well she shows up at Lawrence’s play anyways looking all gloomy with a facial expression that looks like she just watched “The Wolfman” on DVD, or worse, paid to see it in theaters. The two have a brief, awkward interchange and… well that’s about all we get out of this first meeting and our first impression of Lawrence. Not really a proper introduction for a film’s supposed hero (or anti-hero, or whatever), right? Get used to Gwen’s face, by the way, you’ll be seeing plenty of that blank, vacant look for the rest of the film.
Despite Gwen’s apparent rigidness, and despite the fact that Lawrence is the brother of Gwen’s (soon to be found dead) fiancee, Gwen and Lawrence manage to fall in love within the span of about 4 or 5 scenes. Apparently all it takes is some hands on lessons on how to skip stones, and Victorian era girls are head over heels.
After finding his brother dead, Lawrence investigates the possible cause at a gypsy camp where he ends up being bitten by a wolfman that was, in all likeliness, the wolfman responsible for killing his brother. Later we find out that the wolfman who mauled Lawrence’s brother is actually his father. Why, of all people, did the “bad guy” (also known as the other wolfman) have to be Lawrence’s dad? Couldn’t it have been the detective investigating the wolfman case? Or one of the weird townspeople? Or anyone else at all? I mean, it becomes pretty obvious that a second wolfman would need to be introduced so that the current wolfman would have something bigger and meaner looking than a dancing bear (yes, there’s a fucking dancing bear in this movie, and no, he doesn’t dance onscreen) or some torch bearing villagers to fight, but did the other wolfman really have to be our main character’s father? Were they hoping that it would come off as a cool twist to have the dad be the villain? Or that we would be so surprised by that sudden revelation? I mean, it didn’t really take long for me to guess that the other wolfman was Lawrence’s dad; his enormous mansion is chock full of wolf decor, he has a weird cellar in which he locks himself in during full moons, and he knows quite a bit about lycanthropy and what Lawrence is going through with the whole werewolf transformation. It also doesn’t really make for much of a fun movie if the main character is fighting his own father, who happens to be responsible for killing his own wife and son with almost little remorse.
By the time the first big onscreen werewolf transformation occurs, so much time has been spent showing Gwen being mopey and showing Lawrence’s flashbacks of running around a fountain as a child that you probably won’t even care what it looks like.
Granted, it’s actually not that bad. The makeup looks pretty neat, and it’s about as close as I think they could have gotten to the look of the original, Lon Chaney, wolf man without looking cheesy.
The transformation itself is somewhat impressive; you get to see bones snapping, clothes tearing apart, and hair sprouting out in places there never was hair before, but it’s not all that magnificent when you consider the $150 million price-tag of the film. It also felt like they were just pushing the story along so they could finally arrive at the big transformation scene. Hilariously enough, I counted quite a few instances of sped up scenes of the moon rising and falling to indicate time flying by, almost proof that they were literally pushing the fast forward button in the first half of the movie to get to the first transformation.
Yet they certainly weren’t pushing the fast forward button on the film’s release. It was delayed no less than four times. Originally slated for release in November 2008, the film was pushed to February 2009, then to April, then to November until it finally showed up in theaters in February 2010, one of those months where Hollywood’s embarrassments are thrown into theaters. I’m surprised they even released this piece of shit, it’s almost criminal that they put this out there for people to pay to go see. Apologies for being so dramatic, but it reminds me of the Ford Pinto controversy where Ford decided to release their faulty car anyways because it would be cheaper to pay off lawsuits than deal with a total recall. It’s like the producers of “The Wolfman” released the final, faulty product on movie-goers because it was more cost effective than just scrapping the movie completely and not making back any of the $150 million they put in. In the end they didn’t even break even, and made only around $140 million off this mess. I’m surprised it even made that much, but considering the other movies in theaters at the time were “Dear John”, “Valentine’s Day”, “From Paris With Love” and “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”, I guess it was pretty much the only movie in theaters worth seeing on a Valentine’s Day weekend, and the only horror option available unless you really wanted to sit through “Legion” which was released the month before or if you lived near one of the 5 theaters playing “Dread” or “Frozen”.
Thank goodness Mark Romanek, respected music video director who was the original director of the film, got himself out of this mess of a movie before his name could be attached to the final product. Mess is putting it nicely, to be honest. I mean, for Christ’s sake there’s a scene where Lawrence is at a bar and defends his dead mother’s honour by throwing a drink into some mouthy old guy’s face and yelling “my mother was not a whore!” to which the general consensus amount the bar patrons is:
This was an absolutely expensive waste of film, and while the costumes and the art direction are fairly impressive, it all just feels like superficial fluff when you consider how poor the movie really is. Avoid, avoid, avoid. Please!