This is another, I feel compelled to begin by saying, that I really wasn’t over anxious to see, merely one of the more interesting looking available to me as we approached midyear and I struggled to reach a grand total of 10 in the 2010 releases I’d seen, therefore enabling me to post a top 10 list at last (additional: lol, like I said, I’m a few weeks behind… said list is coming VERY soon I swear…)
This has a hugely excruciating build to anything of note actually happening, I guess you could call it character development but it really didn’t draw me in or attach me that much to the characters. In retrospect I have to kind of admire even this aspect of the movie. It’s extraordinarily classical in its approach and really at pains to revive the old Universal horror “thing” and to me that’s something, even if it fails, that’s worth gambling on especially in as high profile a release as this.
Finally, Del Toro’s first big transformation occurs, and I have to say that at this stage I feared I was done with the movie for it’s not exactly satisfying. Coupled with the slow faux-romantic buildup, I found myself comparing it unfavourably on Twitter (live-tweeting as I often do while watching movies, it’s a nice notepad and now’s a good time to suggest you follow me there for quicker thoughts on what I’m watching!) to the Twilight movies. Like I said there, it’s almost like someone made a movie for people who hate Twilight who still for whatever reason wanna watch Twilight. (If you think that’s bad, read this … lol).
I have to say, the overriding classicism of the whole thing kinda even helped me through this. There’s a real respectfulness to this movie, with the makeup mirroring the original
Karloff Lon Chaney Jr. (update: God, so sorry I left that error in here so long…) monster, the deliberation over the build before the storm, Anthony Hopkins being part his own Helsing of Coppola’s “Dracula”, part Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf, part Orson Welles had he ever played such a role late in life. Even Danny Elfman’s score almost deliberately echoes Wojciech Kilar’s “Dracula” score from 1992. Charlie Chaplin’s daughter even appears in a minor role too, just in case you needed further connection to old Hollywood.
It’s after I’d made all these excuses for the movie that the unexpected occurred… a second, serious transformation, in a lecture theatre filled with skeptical scientists and Del Toro strapped to a chair. There’s literally nowhere to hide and the movie explodes right in front of you. Suddenly it’s as gory and brutal as it needs to be and I found myself loving the slow build even more.
I’ll be honest, I’d still prefer to watch Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in the sexy, satirical, but still homage-ridden Wolf. I count that movie in a very special horror trilogy with Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein as almost all the adaptation these classic tales need, and while Del Toro’s more classical Wolfman might seem to fit better in that set than Mike Nichols’ modern take, it really doesn’t quite do it for me. I certainly can’t blame these guys for trying, but it’s something I feel could never really have worked any better than so many things that came before.