Monday, February 15, 2010

Howling for Various Reasons...

I’ll take a werewolf over a vampire any day. Night?

So Universal’s remake of The Wolf Man is one of the few re-do’s that I’d looked forward to seeing. Not just because of my penchant for a lyncanthropic story, but it’s one of those few and far between movies which could really benefit from a remake.

Bart and I planned long in advance to go see it on Valentine’s Day… and we did.

But first, we had Netflix ship us the Lon Chaney original. Of course I’d seen it before… just a refresher so that I’d be better able to compare and contrast the two. Bart had seen most of it, but not all.

What we found is it definitely needed another go… I’d seen it a long time ago, so I had a different perspective on it this time around. It lacks, story-wise. A few missed opportunities such as delving more into what happened with Lawrence Talbot’s brother and/or the strained relationship with his father. Lawrence is actually a cad. Surely he’s meant to come across as suave and smooth. And it might have been so in 1941. But to us he didn’t seem likable at all.

We hoped they’d fix such issues in the new flick.

The new version, The Wolfman (note it’s now one word, which I liked, at the very least as a differentiating factor), is pretty good.

Bart says he received exactly what he wanted… a well shot, well acted, period piece fantasia.

Rick Baker, the special effects wizard who worked on a number of werewolf movies including the wonderful and acclaimed An American Werewolf in London, does another stellar job of a transformation sequences. And yet, I didn’t feel in awe of them. Don’t get me wrong…amazing work! But it didn’t feel fresh, either. Then again, how many ways can we portray a man turning into a wolf-creature? And I’ve seen a LOT of ‘em.

They did, actually, fix the parts of the story which we found lacking or unappealing. It’s much more atuned to the relationships. I’m just not so enthralled with what they did with them. Bart had been, with some very good insights as to what they wanted to achieve.

Watching the Wolfman run amok on all fours proved the best treat of all. (I’m not so fond of a Man Wolf [wherein the werewolf is more or less a human figure.]) They did a nice job of looking like the original Wolf Man, while convincingly updating it as well.

The look of it is to be commended. I thought so from the trailer and the movie did not disappoint in that regard. By which I mean it definitely has the feel and appearance of an old Universal monster flick - with the shadowy trees and fog. The colors are muted, so that it could almost pass for black and white.

I did however, think they missed the mark on the Gypsy Woman, Maleva. Geraldine Chaplain does a great job (and is a very nice choice) but she doesn’t really have much to do a great job with in this film. Maleva seems to be in it because she’d been in the original. I’ll spoil a minor part… the Gypsy Bela role is not in the remake. Thus, she doesn’t creepily go to the crypt and such. Oh sure, she has her own newly made scene instead. But she doesn’t feel like a major mysterious presence in this movie. Rather she’s like a tag along from the first movie.

So is the silver wolf-head cane. It’s there… but only because it’s from the first movie. In fact, Lawrence comes to his estate already with it, unlike the first movie where he buys it at a shop to hit on a young lady. To go against myself a little here (but not quite), I sort of liked that it merely makes an appearance in this film. It certainly isn’t central to the plot as it is in the original. What makes it curious is that at one point in the movie it certainly seems like they’re going to put it to use as in the original. But that moment never comes… hence my vague disenchantment for including it at all, then. However, the scene in which one would have thought the 1941 bit would resurface, I am much happier with the way it works out in the 2010 version. So I’m torn on the cane, you see.

And we all know the poem... "Even a man who is pure of heart And says his prayers at night... Can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright." Yes, it's in the movie. At the very beginning. On a tombstone. And never heard of again. It, too, seems like it's included out out of expected necessity. Nothing more is made of it other than the sense of "HERE's the poem. HAPPY?"

There’s also a “twist” in this version. Again, I both liked and hated it. It factors nicely into Bart’s insight/interpretation of the themes of the story and the relationships, though, which makes me appreciate it a bit more. Okay, I didn't hate this twist, per se. I just thought it a little too gimmicky. But it's not as if it doesn't work.

So that’s pretty much it. Not perfect, no. But good fun.
And at least it doesn’t taint the original movie.


Anon said...

Wow. Well, I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt and see it for myself before I form an opinion.

It seems to me that in the original, Talbot's "brother" was there purely for fanservice--a painting that looked like a cross between Claude Rains and Lon Chaney Jr. so audiences would believe that Claude Rains was his father, and not, you know, Lon Chaney Sr.

And I didn't like Talbot in the beginning of that film either--he struck me as the type who doesn't know the meaning of the word "no," although thinking back on it I'm not sure if that woman he was hitting on meant it or was just teasing him flirtatiously, or.... I don't know, humans make no sense to me. :P

I too prefer werewolves to vampires and wonder why no werewolf movie has had the werewolf actually look like a real wolf, but always some exaggeration....

Bela's not in it? :O Not that he was really a character in the original, but at least he served the plot--now I wonder how that plays out in this remake....

Peter Von Brown said...

Don't you just, though? ;)

Personally, I like the ratio to be oh... say... 75% wolf, 25% human.
My favorite werewolves of all on film are in The Howling. And there are plenty that look like a "real wolf."

Here's a link to a GREAT timeline(and some video links) of the werewolf since 1913: Woof!