Del Toro the Wolf
To put things into context my knowledge of werewolf movies is small and most certainly have not see the original 1941 "The Wolf Man" on whose screenplay Joe Johnston's "The Wolfman" is based. It means that not only did I watch "The Wolfman" with nothing to compare it to but also with untarnished eyes blinkered by any other werewolf movies. As such "The Wolfman" was entertaining, visually it looked good with a modern recreation of gothic and some nice effects when it came to the transformations and it also had an easy to follow storyline. In a way I would say it is ideal as an introduction to the mythical beasts for new audiences but probably not amazing for those who enjoy werewolf movies.
Having learned that is brother has gone missing Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro - The Hunted) returns to the ancestral home and his father John (Anthony Hopkins - Fracture) who breaks the news that his brother has died. Determined to get to the bottom of his brother's death, a seemingly unpleasant affair, Lawrence ends up speaking to the local gypsies only to end up in the midst of an attack from a beast which strikes fear in the hearts of everyone from gypsies to locals. But having survived an attack from this beast Lawrence discovers a much darker secret which brings him to the attention of Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) of Scotland Yard.
One of the things which I liked about "The Wolfman" is whilst we have various storylines; from Lawrence being committed to an asylum at a young age to the strained relationship he has with his father the basic storyline is simple. It is easy to follow and in all honesty easy to pre-empt as you work out things about various people long before it is confirmed. Now as a relative newbie I enjoyed that because it makes it a good introduction movie but at the same time I can see fans being disappointed that "The Wolfman" did little if anything to build upon the mysticism of the werewolf.
What this in effect means is that "The Wolfman" becomes less about the mysticism and more about the action and effects and the semi-romantic subplot surrounding Lawrence and Gwen, the fiancee of his dead brother. Now visually "The Wolfman" is what I would call modern gothic, impressive looking sets, buildings and skies which look like they have been added using CGI which gives it a sharpness. And when it comes to the visual transformation into werewolves it is equally impressive which when complete manages to hold on to the essence of the actor behind the layers of latex and fur. It again probably does little for werewolf movie aficionados but for the new comer it looks good, looks smooth and certainly doesn't look tacky.
And then there is the acting which to be honest is solid throughout Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving all deliver strong performances. But because it feels like the emphasis of "The Wolfman" was on the action and visuality of the movie these are not memorable performances because in the end the characters have not enough layers. In fact it is Geraldine Chaplin as a gypsy woman who is more memorable because she embraces the haggard nature of her character to make her stand out.
What this all boils down to is that "The Wolfman" works as a nice introduction to werewolf movies for those new to the genre but I fear fails to advance the genre for those who have watched various older werewolf movies especially the 1941 original.