There are two big surprises in The Wolfman. I know that the trailers and posters haven’t really given this away, but Hugo Weaving has a somewhat significant role in this film. The second surprise comes from Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum making a surprise appearance. He’s got a slightly longer face in his appearance here, but there is a character that shows up that looks almost just like Peter Jackson’s portrayal of him in those films.
Apart from those two things, the latter of which I almost thought I hallucinated, The Wolfman won’t bring you anything in terms of surprises. It tries to bring you a twist a couple of times, but none of that works and you’ll see all of it coming. It’s odd, as well, as some of these aren’t even revealed in a way that makes it seem like it should be surprising, even if they are to the characters. It’s like there’s a disconnect between what the characters feel and what we’re supposed to feel. That happens all throughout, and by the end, I hoped everyone died thanks to the titular wolfman.
The plot begins to form after our opening scene, which depicts and unnamed man being torn to shreds thanks to a werewolf. It turns out, this man is the brother of one Lawrence Talbot (Benicio del Toro), and the son of Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins). Lawrence had been estranged from the pair for quite some time, but quits his acting troupe in order to spend some time with his father. Oh, and he’s also going to find out just what managed to rip his brother’s body to shreds, as he promises to his brother’s fiancée, Gwen (Emily Blunt).
For the first portion of our time, The Wolfman plays out like a murder mystery with a protagonist who has no business trying to be a detective. Eventually, the werewolf attacks, escapes, but also slices him in the shoulder. As many werewolf theories suggest, he’s now condemned to become a werewolf at the next full moon. Now this film plays out like a horror film that has no clue how to scare an audience, containing an anti-hero main character. The “good guy,” the man we were earlier supposed to dislike, is Weaving’s character, a private investigator just doing his job.
I was never clear on who I was supposed to root for. Was Lawrence, our main character, supposed to draw our sympathy? He mopes around a lot and looks sad, so I was thinking that was the attempt. But then he’ll become a werewolf and slice people up, giving us a ton of CGI-blood shots. He could just kill himself and save the lives of innocents, but he doesn’t. He even, at one point, finds a place where he could secure himself and stay there for a night so that he could avoid bloodshed, but he doesn’t opt for that option either.
Then there’s Lawrence’s father, who avoids human contact for some reason, and acts mysterious seemingly just because he’s either (1) aware that he’s acting in a horror movie or (2) is just not a very personable guy. Basically, it’s hard to relate to him either. Hugo Weaving’s Inspector is about as close as we get to a “good” male character, although we get too little of him to really sympathize with him either. He also appears more as an outsider, risking little by being here, which means the stakes are low and it’s hard to invest in him.
I ended up settling on Gwen, the woman who had her fiancée die in our opening scene. She just wants to see justice done, and is basically the only character I could understand for the entire time. With that said, the love story between her and Lawrence didn’t work at all, and definitely shouldn’t have been included. But she seemed like a good person and I kind of felt sorry for her as she was surrounded by all of these unlikable men.
By now you very well might be wondering why I spent three paragraphs talking about the characters instead of how terrified I was. “This is a horror film,” you say, “so why does it need to have relatable characters?” That’s a good point, and I would kindly ask you to watch The Wolfman before making it. Despite that it sets itself up as a horror film, contains cinematography and lighting (not to mention not one but two werewolves) that make it seem like a horror film, this isn’t a scary film in the least. The aforementioned Gollum cameo, which comes in the form of a jump scare, is the only time I jumped, while the rest of the film plays out like a drama which couldn’t afford proper lights or an action film of a werwolf going around slicing up innocent and irrelevant villagers.
None of the drama works, and the action would only work if it had a purpose to exist. Granted, the special effects and costuming are both top-notch, and it’s a marvel to look at the werewolves being involved in action scenes, but appearance can only get you so far. In this film, it can get you through about two major werewolf scenes before the film gets boring. Unfortunately, that’s only about half way through the film, with the second half losing steam and eventually falling very flat. Oh, and those of you who thought Van Helsing‘s final monster battle was silly absolutely need to see The Wolfman‘s.
The Wolfman fails because it isn’t scary, entertaining, or emotionally involving. It has one good jump scare, it has one or two somewhat entertaining (but always bloody) action scenes, and it has one character that you can kind of relate to. But the rest of the film is either a bore or a mess — often times both — despite always looking really good. This is not a good movie, even if it does contain some enjoyable parts (like Hugo Weaving, despite the fact that he’s underused).