There are good reasons for remaking a classic. As technology changes, the experience can be improved. A new look at a story can make it fresh, funny, or otherwise unique. But no matter the reason, you have to bring something new to the story so that it stands on its own and isn’t merely a reflection of the original.
Despite great casting, though often empty acting, and beautiful cinematography, there is just nothing that the script or Johnston brought to this remake that would have me recommending it. Del Toro’s accent is utterly distracting and makes him feel completely void of emotion and sympathy. Hopkins was directed to be cold and empty, and he pretty much is. Weaving and Blunt bring more to their bit parts than either of the leads bring to their longer screen time.
I mentioned the casting… and that really did deserve notice. Hopkins and Del Toro really do look like father and son and Butterfield really does look like he could have grown up to be Del Toro. So often there is only a nodding similarity that we’re supposed to squint past. This casting director really worked hard to find actors with potential that could work. I’m sure make-up helped here too.
Another good choice, or at least a nod to the intention, was the wolfman makeup. The design mirrors the original Lon Chaney Jr. rather than the more recent and horrific imaginings of such a monster birthed in the 80s.
But your best choice is to skip this empty retelling of the 1941 classic and watch the original. The Universal monster series lives on precisely because they are well done and more about the characters than they are about the ailment. The original Universal monsters were a look at the inner human condition and the fears of the time. None of that is overt, but it added the edge that sets them apart. Most of remakes forget the undercurrents and focus on the period or the blood. In this case, they just forgot the heart.