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Reviewer: Brendan Surpless
The Movie Itself was directed by Joe Johnston (directing the upcoming 2011 “Captain America” film). Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) returns back to Blackmoor, London after the mysterious and gruesome death of his brother. It’s revealed by a bystander in a local tavern that a wolfman comes out whenever the moon is full, ravishing and brutally murdering anyone in its path. One night Talbot himself is attacked by the beast. Left for dead, he is stitched back up, only to soon start feeling the effects of this curse. This brings him back to his estranged father (Anthony Hopkins) house, where a shocking destiny is discovered. Now it’s up to Lawrence to figure out what exactly is occurring to him and how it somehow involves his family. What results is a fairly entertaining film that only tends to suffer from a rather weak middle section.
Upon early readings into “The Wolfman” a few years back, I became intrigued by the film as not only am I a fan of the early monster films, but am a big fan of works by Del Toro and more importantly Hopkins. Originally set to be released back in 2008, I looked for it but seemingly the movie kept receiving delays in the release. First late 2008, then early 2009, mid 2009, late 2009, then finally February 2010…some 2 years after its original release date. Possibly because of the constant release changes, I had lost interest in every watching it. Even when “The Wolfman” arrived on my doorstep for review, I had to look up the film on IMDb to see exactly when the movie actually did come out. Turns out that these constant delays did hurt the film as critical reception only sits at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally I’m not that down on it, more in the 55% range, but I did notice inherent problems throughout. Not necessarily with the physical film print, but more with the flow of the story.
We learn early on that Lawrence’s mother had been murdered by The Wolfman, something that brings Talbot back to his hometown after he learned that his brother has succumb to a similar fate. It’s essentially at the moments upon Lawrence’s return to Blackmoor, London that the film falls apart for nearly 45 minutes (almost 50% of its RUNTIME!). We meet his brothers estranged wife (Emily Blunt), a detective (Hugo Weaving) who wants nothing more than to see The Wolfman die and other random characters that don’t really add anything to said story. It’s only after Lawrence is bitten by The Wolfman and begins experiencing the side effects that the film actually becomes interesting. The transformation of Talbot into The Wolfman is quite impressive thanks in part to Make-Up Master Rick Baker. As we learn in one of the included features, Baker wanted to go the old Make-Up route instead of using typical CGI as it adds a sense of realism and depth to the character. This aspect is quite true as the movements of The Wolfman are impressive, mainly physically as Del Toro was underneath the Make-Up. It’s here that the visual effects and story meld well making the rest of the film well worth the time invested.
In closing, “The Wolfman” is a fairly entertaining re-imagination by Johnston and crew. The film does present amazing visual effects and Make-Up via Rick Baker, however the film does fall a bit flat for the first 30-45 minutes while it’s building up the story. Still, the film is rather dark and does pay homage to the 1941 classic. Fans of the original are probably best off giving this one a rental to see if it lives up to the original.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 1:85:1 aspect ratio. According to IMDb, “The Wolfman” was filmed using Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL, Panavision Primo Lenses. With that said, the 35mm print transitions itself to hi-def with quite the pleasing transfer. Some may be turned off by how ‘dark’ the film is in reference to how the film was aesthetically shot by Johnston and his DP Shelly Johnson, but I found this only helped to add to the style the film brought out. The film’s color palette, as I had mentioned, tends to focus on the lower lit sequences. Many of the interior shots are only lit by that of candles. This can result in an image that does seem rather ‘grain heavy’ at times, but one can possibly assume this grain has been added to capture the horror themes. Blacks are deep and inky resulting in a image that does tend to pop off the screen at times. The few shots that do feature brighter colors (like that of a dream sequence where Lawrence as a child running a fountain with his brother/mother) did hold up well with instances of “3-D” pop in some moments. Make-up Legend Rick Baker has one again delivered here giving us quite the stunning creature creation. What the late Stan Winston did for the animatronic game, Baker is doing for the make-up game. The varying CGI effects mixed well with the live action as well. The film’s print, as one might expect, is in fine condition. No real noise or print damage was found. I did notice a bit of blurring right at the 1:14:14 mark on the gate outside of the asylum. This was the only negative I noticed throughout an otherwise fine presentation. All in all this earns a “4.5 Star Rating” for overall video quality.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. Dialogue is well presented with no instance of drop out or dialogue reproduction issues. I did find that some of the dialogue did require a volume change, but a comfortable 58 on my Onkyo 605 was just the right setting. The film’s score by Danny Elfman spreads across all channels while giving us that kind of adventure rush during the heightened moments but also delivering rather quiet, somber themes during the slower moments. Dynamics, mostly that of say a horse carriage hustling by or a few scenes where everyone is clamoring to chase the creature, are well presented. Pans between speakers are invisible. LFE is solid with deep, immersive bass that definitely gives us a good rattle/’oomph’ here and there. The LFE was as impacting as I had expected throughout, but still was fine. The final battle moment may just become a demo sequence for the bigger fans of the film. During this moment (of which I won’t reveal what is taking place for obvious reasons) the action is well placed. The score arrives via the front while a majority of the effects spin from the rears. Sequences like this all but help to create a solid film atmosphere throughout. All in all this earns a “4.5 Star Rating” for overall audio quality.
Bonus materials are presented in High Definition (HD) video quality (using AVC MPEG-4) with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound @192kbps — unless otherwise noted in the description below.
Overall, the bonus materials are definitely worth a look. In particular I enjoyed the bit on Rick Baker as I’ve been a fan of his work for sometime now. Also it was nice to see the inclusion of the 1941 Original Film as well as a Digital Copy of the film.