V Day and the Wolfman

The extent of my film-going this Valentine’s Day weekend was to see The Wolfman. Nothing says “romance” like rotting corpses, entrails scattered across the moors, and Victorian torture-treatments of “lunatics.”

No, seriously, this actually turned out to be a pretty romantic movie. Traditional werewolf story–boy loves girl, dad loves same girl, dad bites boy, boy kills dad, girl loves boy but shoots boy to save boy from eternal damnation, boy dies gratefully. Awww.

I enjoyed the film a lot. The visuals were impeccable. Dark, shadowy, cobwebby. Lots of decaying elegance and Dickensian gloom. Lovely cinematography, gorgeous costuming, perfect period setting. The best part, however, was the acting. Benicio del Toro was perfect as the tortured, wounded, SEXY hero. I’d love to see him actually play Hamlet, as his character does early in the film. Anthony Hopkins was SUPER-SCARY as the evil-and-loving-it papa wolf. Emily Blunt was lovely, as always. Hugo Weaving was delightfully dark as the fatalistic, mysterious Scotland Yard inspector. So far, fantastic.

The problems are in the script. I thought all the dialogue, exposition, and characterization actually in it was great, but I felt that there wasn’t enough. The film seems to hop from one climactic action sequence to the next with very little in the way of relationship explanation to help it along. The actors all do a beautiful job of making their characters seem rounded, helped along by excellent cinematography, but what needs help is the relationships between characters. The troubled, terrifying father-son dynamic is merely hinted at (a major waste when you have Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro to play with), as is the growing attraction between del Toro and Blunt. The character of the mysterious Scotland Yard inspector and his dubious handling of the Jack the Ripper case is barely touched, a mistake considering the filmmakers went to the trouble of putting Hugo Weaving’s face on a few different monsters and hinting that the real monster lies within the human mind and institution. What the film needs, in my opinion, is a lot more dialogue in between action scenes–a few quiet moments where we get to eavesdrop on father and son, on wolfman and girlfriend, and on girlfriend and creepy father. The whole film feels like a summary; it’s almost like watching the highlights real of a longer film, which is a pity considering how excellent the finished material is. I left the film on a major adrenaline high mixed with a subtle undercurrent of disappointment. I kept wanting to stop and rewind or slow down the film.

Bottom line: I’m hoping for an extended, director’s cut edition to come out on Blu-Ray before I pass my final judgment on this film. I LOVED what was there…I just needed more.

That being said, there were a lot of really innovative moments in the film. The scary bits didn’t involve wolves, for the most part, although the film had more than its share of spurting blood and tangled intestines. The scary bits mostly took place in the London insane asylum, which looked more like a medieval torture chamber than any kind of “medical facility.” Talk about the beast within…I also disagree with Roger Ebert that the wolf looks too animated and moves too fast. I think the lightning-fast motion makes perfect sense. This is a werewolf movie, not a zombie flick. If the werewolf moved at the same speed as an actual wolf, it wouldn’t be scary and it could easily be shot down by one of the angry villagers. Where’s the fun in that? I think the look of the wolfman is just peachy…much scarier than the decidedly sleek and cuddly wolf in  Van Helsing or the weird mangy thing in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It looks plenty bestial and slavering but retains enough human shape to make it look perverse and terrifying. Suck it, Ebert.

awoooooooooo!

There, I think that’s it. I’ve been struggling to define this movie to myself ever since I walked out of the theater yesterday at 7:00ish and that’s the closest I can get to it.

Now, since it’s officially February 14th, instead of wasting money making Hallmark richer or whining and moaning because you’re single, DO SOMETHING WORTHWHILE and participate in V Day. Not Valentine’s Day–V Day. Do something to help stop violence against women and girls. Find an event or performance of The Vagina Monologues in your area: http://events.vday.org/.

You heard it here first, guys–the way to make a woman of substance feel (ahem) cuddly is not with flowers or teddy bears or chocolate or champagne (okay, the champagne helps).  The way to turn on a real woman is by doing something good with your time. Show you respect women rather than insulting our intelligence with cheap cards and tacky balloons. If you take your girlfriend to a performance of The Vagina Monologues, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll BOTH come home feeling all warm and fuzzy.

THIS is what a feminist looks like.

Vagina is NOT a dirty word.

Happy V Day.

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