With Benicio Del Toro ready to debut as Lawrence Talbot in Joe Johnston's The Wolfman tomorrow, it's time to pay tribute to transformations. When Lon Chaney Jr. played The Wolf Man in 1941, the physical transformation was effected through make-up and dissolves. But the idea wasn't just that Lawrence Talbot was changed physically, but that his interior life changed as well. All the make-up and special effects in the world can't hide a character who doesn't grow (or devolve) from the experience.
Science fiction opens up the possibilities considerably, expanding the idea of cross-species commingling. Here are my top ten sci-fi transformations, listed (almost) in alphabetical order.
1. Sam Worthington in Avatar
Jake Sully is a broken man in more ways than one, rendered paraplegic during his military service and broken of spirit as a result. He doesn't take much convincing to accept a mission that may earn him an operation to regain the use of his limbs. Little does he know that it's his increasingly intimate dealings with the Na'vi that will transform him body and soul. He may appear to be nine feet tall and blue, he may wag a new tail, but deep inside, it is his very essence that is changing.
2. William Hurt in Altered States
Eddie Jessup is a brilliant scientist, far more interested in expanding his mind and consciousness than worrying about his physical being. Yet the hours he spends floating in a sensory-deprivation tank -- not to mention the drugs -- begin to have an effect upon his body as well, drilling down far deeper than even the brilliant Jessup could ever have anticipated. The result is one of the more bizarre apparitions to appear on screen.