The legend of the Wolfman has always been a premise in search of somewhere to go.
Horror has changed drastically with the advent of better special effects. So these days, it’s easy to criticize the monsters of antiquity.
Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the original Dracula are tame today. They were scary for viewers in those days — the first time around. Each was reincarnated so often into new films with the exact same plot as the one before that they became a joke.
As a point of contrast, the other really frightening horror character from the era was the Invisible Man. He had one movie and — though he did do some guest shots — remains to this day one of the scariest of the characters created in that era. Fear of what you don’t see is the weapon of choice.
Now, we get a new version of The Wolfman. It is based on the original which went absolutely nowhere from 1941 through the 1950s, when Lon Chaney Jr. did Lawrence Talbot.
In 2010, it still has nowhere to go. Talbot is a tortured soul, bitten by a werewolf and doomed to haunt the countryside as a man-wolf every full moon. There is, however, a bit of a twist to the biting, but that’s a plot buster so you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Benicio Del Toro — who kind of looks like Chaney — has features that naturally fit a wolf. He plays Talbot who, estranged from his father and brother, returns home when his brother is murdered. In trying to solve the murder, Talbot is bitten by a werewolf and becomes one himself.
Give the producers some credit. The Wolfman has a great cast: Del Toro, smooth-as-silk Anthony Hopkins, the excellent Emily Blunt (Sunshine Cleaning), Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) and a surprise cameo from Geraldine Chaplin. They’re all superb actors, but none of them is given anything to do.
With all of the great effects and moves available to director Joe Johnston (October Sky), he chooses to use cheesy backdrops and so-so effects. Combine it with a so-so plot, and The Wolfman is not a howling good time.
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated R for violence, gore and mature themes. It opens Friday, Feb. 12 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.