The Wolfman

Year: 2010
Studio: Universal
Director: Joe Johnston
Producer: Benicio Del Toro
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker/David Self
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving

Cursed? I think werewolf movies themselves are, much like pirate movies were before Captain Jack. For a monster with such potential for greatness (realised in films like the metaphor of Ginger Snaps and the blood, guts and terror of An American Werewolf in London), decent werewolf movies are so few and far between.

It's partly Rick Baker's fault, despite him being the make-up artist on this film. When he broke ground, busted blocks, etc with the transformation scene in John Landis' 1981 frightfest, very little would ever stack up against it.

At a stroke he rendered every CGI transformation that was to come cheap, uncrafted and video-gamey. Joe Johnston's retelling of the 1941 classic suffers from the overuse of CGI, and it's actually a symptom of a much bigger problem. This is a by-numbers studio pic all the way, with no heart, no flavour and no presence beyond a few shocks, a bit of gore and the curiosity factor about what the monster looks like.

The long and troubled delivery has obviously resulted in Universal getting every marketing, publicity and development claw they could into it, hammering it mercilessly into system-friendly product and beating all life from it in the process.

Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro – stiff, uninvolving and uncomfortable-looking playing an American) returns home to his bleak English village home, small enough to fit on a backlot soundstage with computers plugging in the rest. His brother has gone missing after dealings with gypsies, and Talbot ignores warnings from the locals about a wild beast that roams the countryside every full moon.

After he's attacked but survives, Talbot connects with his brother's fiancé (a colourless Blunt), tries to reconcile with his enigmatic father (a hammy Hopkins) and recovers. But next full moon, right in time for a cynical and pragmatic detective to arrive from London (Weaving), we all know what happens.

For a while it looked like Weaving was going to have more fun than anyone and steal the show, but he quickly slotted into a neat, unobtrusive mode that suited the rest of the movie perfectly.

In this case, it was the committee, not the full moon, that hath wrought the beast. You'll have forgotten it by the time you get back to your car.

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