Movie Review: The Wolfman (The 2010 remake)

Seventy years after originally launching the werewolf franchise, Universal Studios released a remake of the 1941 classic, The Wolfman.

The major characters were still there. Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro – who is definitely not Antonio Banderas), Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and Gwen Conliffe (Emily Brunt).

But there are some new characters introduced that make this version slightly better than the original.

The Wolfman (2010)

Universal rebooted The Wolfman franchise in 2010.

The Wolfman (2010)

Larry’s brother Ben (who gets named in the film unlike 1941) still dies to start the film. But in the remake, Ben is the victim of an animal attack. When informed of Ben’s disappearance by Ben’s fiancee, Gwen, Lawrence hurries back home.  Lawrence is a well-known stage actor who has not been home to Talbot Hall in years.

By the time Lawrence arrives, Ben’s mauled corpse has been recovered, and the surviving brother seeks answers. We are also introduced to some of the friction between father and son that drove Lawrence away. Unlike the 1941 original, this is a more complex father-son relationship. We are also given hints that whatever drove them apart is still simmering beneath the surface.

We are also introduced to a new character, Singh, a loyal servant of Sir John. He delivers one of the best lines while loading shells.

“Sometimes,” he tells Lawrence, “the monsters hunt you.”

Life-Changing Encounter

Lawrence is introduced to the Wolfman lore early.

Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot.

While about looking for his brother’s killer, Lawrence rides into a gypsy camp. The police have also ridden in, convinced the captive bear in the camp is responsible for Ben’s death.

But the real killer arrives, a large wolf that leaves a trail of bloody carnage in its wake. Lawrence stands his ground when the wolf charges and is bitten. He is taken to Maleva (Geraldine Chaplin) who tends to his wounds and sends him to Talbot Hall to recover.

Unnatural Recovery

Hugo Weaving as Inspector Aberline.

Lawrence heals quickly, drawing the suspicions of local townsfolk as well as those of Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) who has been dispatched by Scotland Yard. Aberline’s recent investigation of the Ripper murders becomes a point of contention between he and Lawrence. Aberline becomes convinced Lawrence is the killer the locals have been hunting.

“You’ve done terrible things, Lawrence,” Anthony Hopkins as Sir John Talbot.

One night, Lawrence follows his father out to a crypt. Sir John gives his son a vague warning just as he locks himself inside the crypt. Lawrence transforms into a werewolf and then slays several hunters posted out in the woods hunting the killer. When Lawrence awakens in the morning in human form, his father is standing over him.

“You’ve done terrible things, Lawrence,” he says. “Terrible things.”

Aberline and a posse ride up and arrest Lawrence, taking him back to the asylum he’d been committed to as a boy after the apparent suicide of his mother years before. Doctor Hoenneger (Antony Sher) subjects Lawrence to some rather barbaric treatments.

When Sir John visits his son, he tells of a hunting trip in India where he’d been bitten by what he thought was a feral boy. Only when he himself transformed into a werewolf did he undertsand what had happened to him. Unfortunately, that understanding came only after he’d killed the mother of his two sons.

Wrong Diagnosis

Later that night, the good Doctor has Lawrence strapped to a chair, facing an open window so he can see the full moon. The Doctor is convinced that when Lawrence sees the moon and remains human it will be a key step in his recovery.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, and many others in the room, Lawrence becomes the Wolfman and slays many men, including the Doctor. Aberline witnesses the transformation and begins a (wolf)man hunt in earnest.

The Wolfman vs. The Wolfman

Lawrence heads home again. His intent is to kill his father, ending his curse and avenging his murdered mother and brother. Gwen seeks a way to help free the man she has fallen in love with and arrives at Talbot Hall too late.

Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro as the Talbots.

After finding the dead bodies of Singh and a policeman, Lawrence finds his father at the piano. He aims Singh’s weapon, loaded with silver bullets, at his father and pulls the trigger, But Sir John removed the powder from the shells years before and the weapon does not fire.

As the full moon rises, the two men transform and engage in a massive battle. In the course of the fight, Talbot Hall is set ablaze. Lawrence finally deals a death blow to Sir John, severing his father’s head from his body.

Emily Blunt as Gwen, hiding from The Wolfman.

Gwen arrives and Lawrence appears ready to attack her when Aberline steps into the room, drawing Lawrence’s attention. Aberline struggles against the werewolf and is bitten himself as Gwen flees carrying a handgun loaded with silver bullets. These bullets will fire.

Leaving a wounded Aberline behind, Lawrence pursues Gwen. She fires the gun into Lawrence’s heart, mortally wounding him and he transforms back into a human long enough to say goodbye before he dies.

1941 vs. 2010

I loved both versions of this story. But the 2010 version does have a little more depth to it and the fact that Sir John was a werewolf added an extra level to the film the original lacked. That Lawrence struggled against the monster he’d beome while Sir John embraced it was a nice plot touch.

So yes, watch the original and then watch this remake too. You won’t regret it.


About the author

Richard Paolinelli