Wolfwalkers (2020) movie review
Wolfwalkers is a brand new animated feature on Apple TV+ from directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, both of whom also worked on films like Song of the Sea (2014) and The Secret of Kells (2009). The film follows a young English girl attempting to help her father wipe out a dangerous pack of wolves in Ireland. However when she ends up befriending a girl living with the wolves, her world begins to change… The Irish film was released to strong reviews across the board this past weekend, hopefully offering a much needed challenge for Pixar at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Wolfwalkers is a wonderful feat of animation and storytelling that, despite some problems, would be enjoyed by almost anyone. Don’t have Apple TV+? Get a free trial and watch Wolfwalkers and Greyhound (2020). Now the question I have to ask myself is, ‘Exactly how much did I like Wlfwalkers?’ Honestly, I’m not sure yet. I may have to just write it out and see what I give it at the end!
The story is a familiar but strong one. There are elements of Princess Mononoke (1997) and Avatar (2009) and honestly a whole bunch of things; yet the story finds its roots in Irish folktales. So I am not entirely positive taking key plot points from other films counts as stealing if those other films got them from similar sources as well. Even if I did think that, Wolfwalkers goes a few extra steps towards an overall creative narrative. For one, the relationship between protagonist Robyn and her father is at the forefront of the thematic focus.
And yes there is some commentary to be had, but being a kids movie, it is not weighed down trying to make a grand statement about, well anything outside of the territory. Do the right thing, don’t take things for granted; not forest good, people bad. (I promise I’m not making fun of Mononoke. That’s my favorite Ghibli film.) And Wolfwalkers does have things to day, but it does it quietly, never letting things like subtext overwhelm the story unfolding before you.
Now if there’s one key aspect of the film I did not like, its the villain. I get that historically speaking, religions nuts are safe choices. But I’m already tired of ‘blah blah everything that’s not explainable is an abomination.’ He’s the bishop from Castlevania (2017-), only- for kids. Honestly I would rather have had a misguided Lord Protector simply trying to keep his people safe against what he thought was a threat. I get that there’s some key changes that would have to happen, but I just got so disinterested with the villain in this film. You know what, that might also be Mononoke’s fault…
But gosh if this isn’t one of the best looking films this year! The hand-drawn style of animation is stunning! And it allows for some really unique stylistic choices that wouldn’t work any other way. Plus the pacing is pretty smoothed out as well. I expected this film go for a prologue explaining everything to us, since it already looks like most film’s prologues. Nope, the first act is your story setup, which is some competent pacing. And I might just be a sucker for hearing Sean Bean use a Northern English accent… I mean, come on, this movie is just about Ned and Arya Stark. No but seriously, the voicework is really great!
In the end, I didn’t love every single thing about Wolfwalkers, but I have to admit, it’s pretty great! Sure the villain was a bit typical and the story feels familiar and, honestly, there’s a few little things that didn’t make a ton of sense by the end. But the bigger picture easily takes the day here, as the stunning animation, strong voicework, compelling themes, and exciting story keep you invested. I loved the score, I loved hearing Lord Stark again, and I think I might have loved Wolfwalkers anyway! Okay okay, I’m still not totally sure yet, but I think to be safe, Wolfwalkers gets an 8/10.
So Wolfwalkers? Did you watch it yet? What did you think? And what is your favorite animated film from a country OUTSIDE the US and Japan? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, let us know what else we should check out!
-review by Ryan Prince