Is it really good? No. Is it really bad? No. It's a pretty decent flick, but it's missing a special something that would have just put that cherry on top. Going for an old school Wolfman (for the most part) suits the gothic trappings and pre-20th century setting of the film ... but then again, a bi-pedal Wolfman in the 1940s worked for that time. Since then we've had An American Werewolf In London, which really brought the beast out of the man on all fours after an agonising, brightly lit transformation sequence that has essentially spoiled horror afficianados and fans of wolf-based flicks.
The effects of American Werewolf have dated somewhat now, and the beast prowling on all fours was limited in scope due to techniques only going so far at the time, but it was the conviction of the filmmakers - as well as the viewer knowing full well that, fake-or-not, that prowling wolf really was there on the set when the film was shot.
This brings me to my main disappointment with The Wolfman - the CGI. We'd been assured that practicle effects would only be augmented by the CGI, and indeed once fully transformed it's a dude in a well-made suit, which feels far more real than the transformation sequences, which rely far too heavily on CGI and CGI augmentation. What was actually done practically? I certainly couldn't tell from what I saw on screen as it all looked CGI - like a big tar brush of CGI had been slopped over everything, real or computer generated.
It still looks cool, but it doesn't have the real-life weight and presence (nor truly agonising pain) of An American Werewolf In London, and as such it falls a bit flat. However, what does bring joy to the horror hound inside, are the array of bloody kills throughout the movie, so it at least provides a solid horror romp for the genre fans.
Plot wise it's solid enough. Not amazing, not terrible ... it's workmanlike. It gets the job done. Same goes for the actors who all perform competently, but it's Benicio del Toro and Hugo Weaving who really give something for the audience to sink their teeth into. What about Anthony Hopkins, you ask ... I'm not sure whether he was just having fun or phoning it in ... what I am sure of, is that his accent in the movie shifts all over the British Isles from scene to scene. One minute he sounds terribly English, then in the next shot he's come over all Scottish, and then before you know it he's ploughing through the valleys of Wales.
It's well made, especially considering its troubled production, but the problems with the film centre specifically on the script itself - which never fires on all cylinders - and the overuse of CGI, which I seem to remember reading online in an interview, Rick Baker was a little bit disappointed by.
It's an old-school horror monster show, with the technical tricks and styling of 21st century big budget fare. It looks good, it sounds good (although the reliance on loud scares was annoying), it's got a gore bag big enough to satiate the gore hounds, and and old school charm that fortunately rescues it from being a bit of a let down. Not great, not bad, but decent.