This version follows the original up to a point. Benicio Del Toro plays Lawrence Talbot, an actor who returns to his Father's house (Gothic manor) in England after the disappearance of his Brother. When he arrives his Father, played by Anthony Hopkins, informs him that his Brother is dead, his body found mutilated by the side of the road. Lawrence vows to his Brother's fiancee, Gwen, played by Emily Blunt, that he will find out what killed him. Rumors in the small village point to a group of travelling Gypsies who are camping out in the forest. Lawrence visits the gypsies to get some answers, but he gets a whole lot more than he bargained for when he is attacked and bitten by what appears to be a wolf. As you can imagine things begin to go downhill for poor Larry at this point.
The setting has been changed from the original. We are now in Victorian England, around the same time as the Jack the Ripper murders. In fact, one of the lead Scotland Yard investigators on that case, Abberline (played by the always awesome Hugo Weaving) is sent to investigate the grisly murders that are plaguing this small town. His first suspect is Lawrence, seeing as how only a "Madman" could have committed these crimes. Not only is Lawrence an actor, but he spent time in an asylum as a child after witnessing the death of his Mother. After Lawrence is arrested and thrown back into the asylum, it doesn't take long for Abberline to realize that Larry is no simple Madman.
Benicio Del Toro is great as the cursed Lawrence Talbot. During the first half of the film I kept thinking about how much he reminded me of Lon Chaney Jr. Not only does he have the bulk and size of Chaney, but he also has the same sad eyes and baby face that helps make this character so sympathetic. Emily Blunt also is wonderful as Gwen, who falls in love with Larry even though she knows he could kill her. Anthony Hopkins is Anthony Hopkins. What can you say? The twist involving his character should come as no big surprise but I didn't guess it until the big reveal. I was too busy getting lost in the creepy manor, the foggy forest, the decrepit ruins. Yes, this film was a feast for this Gothic horror loving gal.
Besides the awesome set design and excellent acting, the score and gore both astound. This film sounded wonderful (I guess Elfman came back after all) and there is a lot of actual "howling" which made me very happy. And the film earns it's R rating without being overly excessive. Now, I must stop gushing. The film wasn't perfect by any means. The use of CGI during the rooftop scenes is a little shitty. But I am thankful that the transformation scenes were not ALL CGI (thank you Rick Baker!) The actual Wolfman makeup resembles the original Jack Pierce design just enough to be a loving tribute.
So I am happy. Worth the wait and not a disappointment. Now I can get all worked up over Shutter Island and The Crazies, the next to films I am dying to see...