The Wolfman (2010) Blu-ray Review with D-BOXMay 19, 2010
Digging into another Universal classic monster franchise for additional earnings was only a matter of time after Universal's reimagining of The Mummy into goofy popcorn adventure films turned into a highly successful trilogy. Where those films felt new and fresh compared to their inspiration, Joe Johnston's new The Wolfman got stuck in mud somewhere between a faithful homage and going in a new direction.
This new Wolfman is set in a drab and flawed world where we are expected to believe a pudgy Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence Talbot not only turns into a ripped wolf, but is the direct son of gimpy old Anthony Hopkins despite the two men's differing ethnicities. A brutal mauling of Lawrence's brother brings the Shakespearean actor back to his old English town from the United States where he reunites with his father and brother's widow, Gwen (Emily Blunt). In no apparent rush to return stateside thanks in part to having a soft spot for Gwen, Lawrence investigates his brother's death and before long becomes a wolf himself after his shoulder is torn open by the same creature that ripped apart his brother.
The rest of The Wolfman is a cat-and-mouse chase between Lawrence and persistent Inspector Francis Aberline (Hugo Weaving playing the character a little too close to Agent Smith) with Gwen and father Talbot popping up occasionally to provide some necessary back story to the wolf origins. Time and sunlight seem to all but ignore the near month between full moons as Lawrence becomes the wolf and without hesitation brutally tears the limbs off of anyone within striking distance with Johnston's camera right there to capture all the gore. When human, it is hard to have compassion for the man knowing what he's done to innocent people and that justice will obviously have to be swiftly served before the credits role.
Del Toro offers little in the lead role to elicit sympathy for his character's curse with a performance more dull than desperate. His supporting cast it not much better, reciting weary dialogue with the enthusiasm of a mortician that is only exacerbated by an additional 16 minutes added into the optional director's cut. Johnston may prefer the longer cut but the theatrical cut ends the tedious tale at a more reasonable clip.
Though the new Wolfman is infinitely more violent than his predecessor, Rick Baker's updated design still echoes the original Wolfman's upright look with human characteristics identifiable underneath the fur. Lawrence bears the look of a campy PG-13 beast when fully transformed and walking which makes the bloody R-rated rampages feel misplaced. Then again, Del Toro hailing from an established English family could not possibly be more out of place.
The Wolfman Blu-ray packs a lot onto a single disc and the video quality takes somewhat of a hit because of it. A slightly soft image and washed out blacks, especially during the film's first 20 minutes, could have been avoided had the bit-rate been push up near 30mbps rather than hovering around 15-20 mbps for the film's entirety. A handful of scenes where light is allowed to shine more than a flicker are sharper and more pronounced. These are an exception to the rule as almost the entire film is shot under overcast skies, at night in the dark or under candlelight. On the positive side, there does not appear to be any digital tampering to smooth out film grain or edges so the image retains the natural monotone palette it was intended to.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track howls to life in line with appearance by the Wolfman. When the moon is not full, which is much of the film's first halve, surrounds are put to sleep and rarely given an opportunity to spruce up scenes with some simple ambient noise. The Wolfman's arrival and attacks kicks the audio into gear as his gallops and the screams of those he chases circle the room.
D-BOX Motion Code
D-BOX takes advantage of a few opportunities to provide subtle enhancements when big action sequences are not unfolding. There is low bounce during a train ride, slight thuds when walking through the woods and a neat gallop to go with a stagecoach ride. A long dry spell for the Wolfman's appearance impacts D-BOX which, like the surrounds, takes an overly extended break before Lawrence becomes the Wolfman. When he does, D-BOX picks up but not to the extent of bigger technology driven action films. Only a handful of jerking jump scares stand out as memorable and worth rewinding for an encore.
Beyond the Feature
The Wolfman may have underperformed at the domestic box office, but Universal was not shy about packing its Blu-ray release with supplemental features. In addition to a separate disc for a digital copy and a slip cover sleeve, the original The Wolf Man 1941 film will be available after street date for a limited time via BD-Live download, Pocket blu to your Smart Phone, or to your computer at UniversalHiDef.com. The remaining bonus features are all presented in high definition.
U-Control - Universal has designed the U-Control in The Wolfman to slightly mimic Maximum Movie Mode found on select Warner Blu-ray titles. A member of the crew talks in front of a framed clip or behind-the-scenes footage and sometimes rewinds or fast-forwards on the fly. There are a total of 10 points to access U-Control.
Alternate Endings (7:58, HD) – A pair of alternate endings dramatically change the fate for at least one character but require sitting through several minutes of the same footage from the theatrical cut to reach. The final version chosen is the most appropriate.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (11:17, HD) – There are five scenes total, none of which are included in the director's cut. One is a ludicrous trip by the Wolf Man into a costume ball where it takes him chomping into a guest before anyone realizes he's not human. The Wolf popping up in a kid's puppet show featuring a wolf (late at night, mind you) is equally uncalled for.
Return of the Wolf Man (12:20, HD) – The cast and crew discuss the challenges of bringing The Wolfman into modern times on top of behind-the-scenes footage. While informative, a better approach would have been separating out the interviews and letting the behind-the-scenes audio roll.
The Beast Maker (12:05, HD) – Makeup legend Rick Baker talks about landing his dream gig to work on The Wolfman. Sitting through it reveals quick snippets of early makeup tests.
Transformation Secrets (15:15, HD) – A strictly visual effects featurette which breaks down the wolf transformation process from early tests to the final renders.
The Wolf Man Unleashed (8:45, HD) – A stunts and action featurette for anyone curious as to how the big sequences were imagined and executed.
While congratulations go out to Rick Baker and Joe Johnston for paying tribute to and evolving The Wolfman look and unnerving transformations, the script loses itself somewhere between homage and reimagining with an uninspired and sluggish performance by lead Benicio Del Toro caught in the middle. Sadly the 16-minute longer director's cut is no savior for this downtrodden tale, but the extensive supplements and original The Wolf Man download might be enough to lure a few extra purchases by those enamored by werewolves or things that hunt in the dark of night.
- Dan Bradley
Shop for The Wolfman on Blu-ray at Amazon.com,
Browse all Amazon.com Blu-ray pre-orders
June 01, 2010
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Watch 2013 NBA Playoffs Game 3 on ESPN Free Online Live Streaming: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies