By hiring Joe Johnston, a respected high-grade hack, to take over the direction of The Wolfman in the wake of Mark Romanek‘s sudden departure, producers Scott Stuber and Mary Parent have essentially announced to the industry and to fans that they’re playing it “safe” and that no one should expect anything more than a slick, proficient, hack-level popcorn movie. Perhaps on the level of Mike Nichols‘ Wolf (which I liked until the end), and perhaps not. But definitely in focus! And with great special effects!
The plus in this equation is star Benicio del Toro, who always upgrades. The downside is the script, which allegedly needs work but can’t be worked on until the WGA strike ends, which may be presently.
Johnston’s two best films — Jumanji and October Sky — came out in ’95 and ’99. The notion of Johnston being a hefty-paycheck, Spielberg-aspiring slick operator began to take over with his direction of Jurassic Park III (’01) and Hidalgo (’04). No one despises Johnston — he’s “fine” — but he brings a slight nod-off, good-enough factor to the project.
The truly ballsy move would have been for Stuber and Parent to hire John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Schlock), the godfather of the modern ravenous biped genre.