If you read a few of my reviews, you know I like the phrase “I heard a lot about this film…” or some variation on that, because it is true as I love films and I try to keep up with everything that is coming out. But for one reason or another, Wolfwalkers escaped me until the Oscar nomination. I still remember watching the Oscars live and seeing the short clip introducing this, and I thought how beautiful this film looked. And when I heard people raving about it, I knew I had to watch it. Well, it took me a while, but I finally got around to it, and the film did not disappoint.
Wolfwalkers stands out immediately because of its animation style. We are so used to Pixar animation being one way, DreamWorks being this other way, and even though they have their quirks, they aren’t THAT different. That is where Wolfwalkers grabs you instantly by looking not just differently but by being breathtaking. The great thing about that animation style is that it’s not different “just for the sake of being different” that style fits so well with the story of the movie that it enhances it. This film is about nature and our relationship with the wilderness, this unique, colourful and “wild” (the best thing that comes to mind) animation fits this movie so well, and you will get lost in it very quickly.
What helps is the story that is so beautifully simple. I know this might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I assure you, it is not. This film is based on Irish folk tales, so it makes sense that stories that are a couple of centuries old will be simpler than what we are used to now. But it is this simplicity that makes it so much more powerful and honest. I often talk about how I love some “raw” films, and to me, a raw film simply means “getting back to the basics”. No over convoluted plot, no $200 million budget, just a simple story told in a unique way. And what is a better “back to the basics” story than a folk legend? Forget it’s Irish in this case; stories/legends like these have been around for a reason, passed around from generation to generation because of their lessons. Sometimes, to scare children into behaving well, others remind ourselves we should be better to each other or nature, as is the case with this movie.
Wolfwalkers is a simple story about a certain group of people who can transform into wolves at night. We follow daughter Robyn and father Bill (the father is voiced by Sean Bean, who is this movie’s “biggest name” actor) as they move to Ireland to help wipe out the wolves. And as it happens, things aren’t all as black and white as they seemed. And that’s the thing about folk tales; they are rarely about “just one thing” stories. Wolfwalkers is not just about our relationship with nature/animals, it is also about the parent/child relationship as well as the father’s feeling to just “shut up and take it” from his “boss” (or Lord Protector in this instance), desperately trying to secure a life for his daughter. This movie touches on all these topics, and they all work hand in hand, resulting in one epic story that (and this can’t be understated enough) is a visually breathtaking journey.
If you examine the animation style closely, you will notice it also “seems” simplistic. And again, this is the best thing I can say about this movie because not only it isn’t simplistic, but the movie uses the animation itself as a story device. That’s right, it’s not just to enhance the story, but many times, the film changes the aspect ratio based on what we are supposed to feel at that scene or whether it’s an intimate scene or a fight scene. When I realised that, I was even more impressed by the animation and the choice to use it. In this instance, and this instance only, this movie reminded me of The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021, my review here).
I know what you are thinking: “Wait, what? How does this pretty traditional-ish animated movie compare to this much different film?” The answer is, of course, they are not the same, but they both utilise their animation style to their maximum capacity. Often, animation (albeit stunning) is just a way to communicate a story. And lately, more and more animated shows and movies have started to realise that the biggest advantage of using animation is that your imagination is the limit. Nothing else is stopping you, me or anybody else from drawing or animating literally anything you can think of, meaning you can play around with the form itself. The Mitchells did this by inserting many easter eggs throughout this film, and due to the film’s quick cutting, it felt like something a kid who grew up watching YouTube videos from the early 2010s would have made (which was the point). And Wolfwalkers used animation to change the ratio of many scenes. In a way, this film reminded me of some anime here and there (that’s still a genre I need to delve deeper into) with their way of toying with ratios, colours and making sure each frame pops out.
But ultimately, I must say that Wolfwalkers is uniquely its own thing. The voice acting done mostly by Irish actors only added the extra element of awesomeness. As somebody living in Scotland for almost 11 years now (goddamn, time flies), it is always fun to hear proper Irish actors using their voices and, more importantly, in stories that originated from their tales.
Overall, Wolfwalkers is an amazing animated movie that deserves to be seen by many more people. It is currently on Apple TV+ (that’s how I watched it), and I would say if you don’t have that streaming platform yet, this film is worth paying the price of a month’s subscription for. It is a touching story about a daughter and father, about our relationship with animals and nature. But most importantly, it is a “simple” story done exceptionally well, proving yet again that you don’t need big budgets, big names or a complicated story to make a stunningly exceptional film. I can’t recommend this enough.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,