The Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the original Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy--these were my companions as a young child. Though the twenty-first century character is almost the spitting image of the Wolfman from the 1941 flick--you realize amongst the classic-sounding compositions by Danny Elfman, and traditional scenery--that it's supposed to be. The 2010 version is directed by Joe Johnston (b. 1950)--ever heard of him? He's kind of the man--known for his pictoral story-telling genius in films like October Sky and Hidalgo--two of my all-time favs. Joe was also involved in early cult-classics, usually as an art director, like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His current project is about another favorite subject of mine: American comic book superheroes!!! Johnston is directing for 2011 release The First Avenger: Captain America. Hold back my excitement...because right about now, you could spread me on a cracker I'm so super-psyched!!!
What I love about Johnston's work is how he has this sense of nostalgia and can convey that to the audience through his visual story-telling. His list of hits keep on growing, and Wolfman is no exception.
At first, I was skeptical about del Toro as a Brit, let alone Anthony Hopkin's son. I could easily see del Toro as a hairy beast...I mean, c'mon, Vicky, Christina Barcelona...need I say more? And admittedly, del Toro is unable to pull off a convincing American accent, it is decent but you can hear him struggling to keep the flat veneer in his voice. The American accent is explained early on as a result of del Toro's character leaving his Britsh family and moving to the States to live with an aunt as a boy, where he grows into a well-respected and beloved actor...ahem. Moving on....
But despite what I consider the endearing nuances of del Toro's presence in the film, you really are taken in by his portrayal of a tortured man with an equally tortured past. Interestingly, his Wolfman character has a lot of the same angst del Toro himself may have: Losing his mother in childhood to disease and dealing with what must have been an incredibly difficult transition at an incredibly difficult age when his father moved the family (after their mother's death) from Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania.
What I love most about monster movies--the classics--not the ridiculous slasher stuff like all the many Saw versions--is how the "monsters" are always more human than the human characters. With Johnston's nostalgic visual brush as a backdrop, del Toro, with the help of Hopkins and Blunt, really gives a great adapted performance from the original. I found it...well, inspiring.
I sat in the theatre thrilled to be face-to-face with an old friend again. My monsters were my saviors during childhood. I already had a keen sense that the only thing to really fear in this world was the depravity of humans--the monsters, heck, they were the good guys. Much of my own writing shares this theme--exposing people as the real monsters of this world.
So on a scale of 1-10, I have to give Johnston's Wolfman an 8.5-9...for nostalgia, for the cinematopgraphy and sound, but most of all, for one of my oldest and dearest of friends....
Go out there and get inspired!