Rick Baker is Star of Disappointing The Wolfman

by Anne Thompson
February 10, 2010 10:04 AM
5 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
You may think that Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving and Emily Blunt star in Universal's long-delayed reboot of the classic monster tale The Wolfman. While they all deliver enjoyable performances, del Toro is hopelessly miscast as Brit noble Hopkins' returned "prodigal son," who was sent away to be raised by an aunt in America. Del Toro looks uncomfortable in 19th century tweeds as he chases corseted beauty Blunt. If the guy can't pull off a British accent, then don't cast him. The star of the monster movie which opens Friday is make-up effects master Rick Baker. The movie is over-labored and may not make back its budget (it should open in the number two spot behind Valentine's Day) but the R-for-violence wolfman transformations and action scenes are superb. UPDATE: Reviews are not good. Tomatometer: 35%, Metascore: 44.

Universal clearly greenlighted theThe Wolfman with no "big idea" behind it--a strong hook for a remake or reinvention. Del Toro's manager Rick Yorn sold the studio on a remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr. classic, a fave of his client. So the studio went back to the original and set the film in the 1800s. That helped to make the movie hugely expensive--Universal also plowed through two directors, two composers, two editors. Check out the LAT's account of the film's misadventures, featuring hapless director Joe Johnston (Honey I Shrunk the Kids).

Thompson on Hollywood
The movie is hugely expensive--I do not believe Universal's claim that it cost $120 million--after six weeks of reshoots in England and massive overhauls of the visual effects. As you watch the film you can tell that every moth-wing in a corner has been amplified and fussed over. That's because Universal couldn't let a potential franchise fail. So they kept throwing money at it. One smart move: as Weaving is the best thing in the movie, they set him up to return in the sequel.

Yet The Wolfman isn't as bad as I feared. The scene where the werewolf scampers Hulk-like over London roof-tops is stunning. This is not a Stephen Sommers movie like Van Helsing. The Wolfman is not over-pixelated: it functions on a human scale. That's where six-time Oscar-winner Baker comes in. (EW interview here.) He's the man behind the laborious prosthetic make-up in King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, The Howling, Norbit, An American Werewolf in London and Michael Jackson's Thriller. While CG was used for the transitions in The Wolfman, as Baker told the folks at Comic-Con 2008: “Something magical happens when you get an actor in good makeup, when he sees himself in the mirror, and says, ‘I’m the Wolfman.' This is an old-school gothic horror movie.”

Here's the trailer:

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5 Comments

  • Anthony | November 4, 2010 2:32 AMReply

    Rick Baker is star of a disappointing Wolfman and Benicio Del Toro is hopelessly miscast", my ass, are you kidding me?! This was a cool werewolf movie, man!!! I don't care what a lot of people reviewers and critics say, rather on the internet or on tv because their all full of it. I swear, they think they know movies, when they know NOTHING about being a horror fan, let alone being a horror fan and no matter how cool the movie was, they always try to find it's "flaws". Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt did very well and Del Toro play a bad-ass werewolf and the scary parts were not as "Confusing" because it did scare me a bit in certain scenes where I didn't expect to get scared!
    I have the original and love it. But unlike the original, you got to see the werewolf tear his victims up. not only they payed homage to the original but it also payed a little homage to An An American werewolf in London where he was running loose on the streets, causing chaos and the storyline goes deeper and deeper into the plot, building the suspense in the end.
    This was very enjoyable and this was the best werewolf that I have seen in a long time - Better than "Cursed" and I would choose the Wolfman over all that Twilight silliness any day of the week and unlike the so-called werewolves, THEIR NOT WEREWOLVES their just shapeshifters who turn into big wolves but ordinary wolves, otherwise, Nothing in between forms but the Wolfman IS - the way it should be! Anyway, this was a very decent werewolf movie, I recommend the theatrical and unrated DVD edition

  • Sergio | February 11, 2010 11:46 AMReply

    I agree somewhat with what you say about the film. I liked it because it wasn't as bad as I was fearing it would be, though something is definitely lacking by the time you reach the end. I was trying to figure out what the problem was and I realized because we don't care anything about the characters or the Wolfman either since he just a killing machine. A very savage and effective one but a empty monster all the same. He is supposed to be part human we there's no indication of that until the very end with that scene with Blunt and then it's like "where did that come from'?

    And all those CGI background shots of London took me right out of it. You mean there are no more areas of London that look the way they did back during the 19th century? (I did notice that one scene in the film where the Wolfman is charging down at Hugo Weaving and the cops on the end of the street and leaps over them is the exact same location seen in the opening of Sherlock Holmes. Where is that street?)

    And when it came down to that "dueling werewolves" scene that's when the film went off the rails and it clearly look like they were scrambling for some sort of big finish.

    Del Toro just walks around like he's got a stomach ache.. Blunt is just background, Hopkins is restrained but hammy the way I like him. I thought Hugo Weaving came out the best. I wanted to see more of him in the film.

  • Joe Valdez | February 11, 2010 6:28 AMReply

    Another top notch post, Anne. This whole affair reminds me that when Amblin approached Robert Rodriguez to direct Zorro, he apparently lost the gig because he told the studio flat out that it was going to cost more than the $60 million they hoped to spend. Martin Campbell said all the right things, replaced Rodriguez and the studio ended up being billed around $95 million to produce the film. We all know Rodriguez would have ended up saving money, but his ability to delude himself and his studio was nowhere near as refined as Campbell's, I guess.

  • alan green | February 11, 2010 5:38 AMReply

    trailers are very fine, elegant. had very high hopes for this one. will see it, someday.

    i've also felt del toro is miscast, but for intangible reasons. do not think anyone will notice his accent. if they do pick up on it, not sure it is a factor in a 'dress up' spooky movie set in foggy old england. in a serious period piece, it might, not so much a wolfman on the rue morgue

  • Griff | February 11, 2010 2:11 AMReply

    Anne, I haven't seen the picture yet, but to me the casting of Del Toro as Hopkins' son is firmly in the tradition of the 1941's original's casting of Lon, Jr. as Claude Rains' son -- it may not be quite credible, but I'm willing to believe it, if the actors are...

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