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Web Stalker – The Wolfman Cometh and Everyone’s Actually Excited

The Wolfman Cometh and Everyone’s Actually Excited” width=”560″/>

Yes, the current wave of non-stop remakes is verging on the overwhelming with seemingly every major horror release for at least the next six months a ‘re-launch’, ‘re-envisioning’ or some other variety of re-hash. But amidst all the hand-wringing, eye-rolling, name-calling and debate about whether Film A really needs to be remade, there is one upcoming remake that has generally drawn excitement, not condemnation: The Wolfman.

Banking on the fact that ol’ wolfie is one of the most iconic and yet least-exposed characters in all of horror filmdom, Universal Pictures opened up the wallet, assembling something of a dream team to be sure that their hairy little baby was treated right. Acclaimed music video director Mark Romanek ( One Hour Photo ) would direct. The script came from Se7en ‘s Andrew Kevin Walker. Effects? Practical work would be favored over computer graphics with multi-Oscar winner Rick Baker designing and supervising. And, the coup de grace: Benecio Del Toro would take the lead.

The initial response to The Wolfman‘s imminent return was instantaneous and universal: Fans were in love. Bloody Disgusting declared the news nothing less than ‘the best news of 2007’ and if there were any dissenting voices out there they were very quiet indeed. The overwhelming opinion was that this was the right movie being tackled by the right people at the right time with the right approach. Everything should’ve been simple from this point out… but Hollywood hardly ever takes the easy path, and here we are a year later and still no Wolfman in theaters. Here’s how things played out, with relevant commentary, in three major areas: Director, Effects, and Actor.

The Director
When The Wolfman first got rolling, the director looked to be one of the movie’s great strengths. Romanek is one of the most visually impressive directors going and seemed deeply invested in the project but then — disaster.

Just two weeks before shooting was slated to begin, Romanek simply walked away from the project citing “creative differences.” Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood wrote that “[Romanek] just blew the opportunity of a lifetime,” while the lads at Defamer were firmly of the opinion that “it will be the studio, not the director, who winds up most regretful” once the dust settled. Fans were just as split on who this would hurt more long term, but in the short term, the simple fact is that nine times out of ten a director walking away from a movie this close to shooting spells certain doom.

Undaunted, Universal simply set out to hire a new director in the two weeks they had before their scheduled start. Ain’t It Cool broke word that Matt Reeves, Breck Eisner and Brett Ratner were all in the running, but Universal surprised everyone by picking Joe Johnston, director of The Rocketeer and Jumanji and the original designer of Boba Fett. Johnston’s pretty much purely a for-hire guy these days and while outfits like Slashfilm are less than pleased with the choice, the boys at Filmjunk are considerably more optimistic and most reactions seem to fall somewhere in between. For a raging storm on both sides, check out this colorful talkback thread at AICN, where fans argued wheher “Ratner would’ve made a far
better film than Joe “Baby
Food” Johnston.”

The Effects
Inspiring considerably less controversy is the choice of Rick Baker for the special effects. The six-time Oscar winner was the effects man behind arguably the last truly great werewolf film — John Landis’ debut at Entertainment Weekly .

The one thing that keeps Baker from being a total slam dunk is that Universal don’t seem to realize what they’ve got and — as of this July interview with MTV — they have been keeping him entirely uninvolved in the movie’s CG rendered man-to-beast transformation sequences. And Baker’s none to happy about it, telling MTV, “It’s my creation in the end … I should at least be giving some guidance.”

Now, you could put this down to Baker just being grumpy, but when readers at Cinematical immediately recognize that the Wolf has a different number of teeth than the Man, letting the guy who knows all the details inside-out supervise and make sure these details don’t get missed makes a whole lot of sense.

The Actor
The one absolute, one hundred percent perfect slam dunk to The Wolfman, the one factor that will virtually guarantee success: Benicio Del Toro. Del Toro is so absolutely perfect for the role that Ain’t It Cool quotes Baker asking jokingly “Whattaya need ME for?!” after seeing a makeup-free Del Toro mucking about in-character for the first time. The fans at Bloody Disgusting share Baker’s enthusiasm. Casting can cure all ills and Del Toro looks likely to do exactly that here.

The final tally on this? Fans seem to be judging Johnston a solid B as a director, Baker is a clear A as effects man — though the CGI issues are cause for minor concern — and Del Toro himself is a clear A+. If fan opinion is any indicator of future success (IMDB already has an entire thread dedicated to “Why this movie is going to rock“) —  The Wolfman is a sure-fire hit.

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