Storybook come to life
Sometimes the look of a movie is enough to grab my attention. Animation that is unique or (nowadays) uniquely traditional can really catch the eye. Wolfwalkers is one such movie. The trailer and critical buzz added to my interest, but ultimately it was the gorgeous visual style that led me to sit down and watch. From start to finish, Wolfwalkers delivered on that style.
In the year 1650, Robyn Goodfellowe moves to Kilkenny, Ireland with her father, Bill. Tasked by the Lord Protector with hunting a pack of wolves in order to clear an adjacent forest for farming, Bill must discreetly leave Robyn home alone for her own protection. Bored and rebellious, Robyn follows her father into the forest where she encounters Mebh – a girl who can transform into a wolf. Robyn tries to convince her father of the existence of wolfwalkers to stop him hunting the wolves. Instead, Robyn finds herself increasingly torn between the worlds of men and wolves.
As I watched Wolfwalkers, it felt like a storybook come to life. The animation, music and voicework all came together to create something magical. The animation was especially noteworthy since it was used to maximum effect in representing the wolf perspective. Smells and sounds were given distinctive looks when characters ran on all fours. Mebh and her mother were also animated as almost deity-like figures. The distinctive look of the ‘sleeping’ mother and daughter in their cave with hair as big as their bodies seemed almost religious.
While the visuals and audio impressed me to no end, I found the writing to be a mismatch. The story itself was very good – it was well constructed with solid payoffs by the end. But the conflicts within the story were far too intense for the medium and genre within which the story was being told. Robyn’s continual rebelling kept endangering her father’s life. Bill not acknowledging the corner he was being backed into by the Lord Protector kept increasingly threatening his and Robyn’s lives. Even the level of danger itself seemed to intensify exponentially as the movie progressed. And all of these might have worked well in Game of Thrones (Sean Bean’s voice is unmistakable) – they just don’t work in Wolfwalkers.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. Although the high stakes kept me uncomfortably tense, I still loved what I was seeing and hearing. I would highly recommend Wolfwalkers – even if it’s mostly for its technical achievements.
Source: Wolfwalkers (Cartoon Saloon and Melusine Productions) (2020)