I had planned to write this yesterday until sidetracked by other news. I managed to catch the first matinee at the Spectrum (oh, how lucky to have the Spectrum!) and had a small crowd with which to see it, as it's not the usual fare of that venue.
The short review: it was fun! I enjoyed it immensely and not always ironically ;-)
The filmmakers really tried to capture the Universal monsters feel albeit with swanky CGI, speedy camera movement and a whole lot of gore. There was so much digital fidgeting that the settings looked as fake as an Universal set. You would think that in a film with an historical consultant (and a tarot consultant, Shakespeare consultant [really want to see del Toro's Hamlet!] and Siekh consultant) someone would have mentioned that you don't blow out oil lamps, but simply turn the wick down. Facts -- phht!
The cast was excellent; I think the director's charge to Benicio del Toro was simply, "Okay, now SMOULDER!" He was very subdued at the start, as was Anthony Hopkins throughout. Yes, I know, you were expecting scenery chewing, but Sir Tony really kept his cool. Never raised his heart rate ;-) And I think they were surprisingly clever and insightful as they developed the answers to the "del Toro is Hopkins' son?" question quite admirably.
Of course it's always surprising for a young man to find that his brother was about to marry Queen Victoria; poor Emily Blunt was "the Girl" or more precisely for this film, "the sexual enticement" because that's what The Wolfman is all about. In the usual oversimplification of the past that inevitably happens in films, the Victorian-era sexuality repressed becomes lycanthropy (I love when Blunt pages through the coincidentally handy Big Book of Weird with a serious expression, researching lycanthropy).
Yes, it's another Movie with 1 Woman: this film is all about dangerous masculinity on the loose. Sure Geraldine Chaplin takes over the gypsy crone role made famous by Maria Ouspenskaya with more make-up and less panache, but she's just there to supply facts -- as is the pub owner's wife. No, it's all about the sexual temptation. There's a great scene where del Toro breaks out in sweat just glancing the little bit of skin that peeks out from Blunt's collar.
Unbridled masculinity -- it's a monster!
Think about it -- when the wolfman changes, he gets all hairy and things...grow. He sprouts long hard nails, he loses all reason and gets all violent. It's Super Bowl Sunday all over again.
There's a whole Englishing to the script that's meant to heighten the sense of emotional and sexual repression, but it's so self-conscious and over the top that you practically expect the Inspector to greet the first killing scene with "Here's a howdy-do!" I did laugh out loud when they said his name (yes, I was the only one to do so) but it was a nice link, though they could have done a little more with it. Ditto the silver cane. I loved that they started with the rhyme as a headstone; fun. Loved the London scenes, especially the Wolfman astride the griffin, howling.
That's all I can do in a spoiler-free review; more to say when some of you have seen it, which I do recommend.