Directed By: Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Written By: Will Collins
Streaming on Apple TV+: December 11, 2020
Runtime: 1Hr 43 Mins
Starring: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Wolfwalkers is an animated film that revolves around Robyn Goodfellowe and her father, Bill Goodfellowe, who is a hunter for an Irish village, and they have to fend off attacks from packs of wolves to protect the townspeople. What they don’t know is the wolves have Wolfwalkers in their group. Wolfwalkers are people who can transform themselves into wolves at night time. They are nothing but rumors to this town. It’s all hearsay until Robyn has her first encounter with one day when she is in the forest to prove herself as a worthy hunter to her dad. The wolfwalker she comes across is the same age and goes by the name of Mebh, and searches for her mother, who has gone missing. Robyn goes on a magical journey with Mebh and uncovers secrets about the land and the mythology of Wolfwalkers, while her father’s task is to set out and destroy the very existence of Robyn’s new friend.
Let me be upfront and state that I am not the biggest fan of animated films in general. I have seen my fair share, and more often than not, I feel indifferent about them after each viewing. That’s not to say there aren’t good ones out there, because there is, and I know how much goes into the production and the process of animating; it’s a lot of work. So with that said, I will say that Wolfwalkers left quite an impression on me and even had me holding my breath at moments within the third act. The animation is a style I have not seen before. With its Celtic inspirations infused in each frame, Wolfwalkers entrances its viewers to welcome them on a journey where anything seems possible.
What I liked the most about the film, aside from its animation, is how bold and “dangerous” the third act felt. I only use the term dangerous in the sense that at any given moment, anything could have happened to the characters. It is intense, it has some heart-wrenching moments, and it’s when the animation comes to life in a way that I wasn’t expecting it. It’s the third act where every element introduced throughout the film comes to full circle. Be it the character dynamics between Robyn and her father, Mebh’s determination to find her mother, or the terrifying villainous force that is Oliver Cromwell. The soundtrack also plays a significant part in creating how magical the world feels.
Although Wolfwalkers has a lot going for it, there are some drawbacks with the tonal shifts throughout the film. One second it’s fun, then the next, it’s gloomy as can be. The transitions between the constant tone-shifts caught me off guard. And some of the writing doesn’t help with that, as Robyn’s character is fun and spunky, but then she would digress to some melancholic moments about her strained relationship with her father seconds after. The timing of these sequences is odd, to say the least. They have their warranted moments, again in the third act, and the pay-off is better than they are with the contrasts in the first half of the flick. I know this sounds nit-picky, but it’s the only real issue I had with the film. The pacing feels off during its tonal shifts. That’s it.
Overall, Wolfwalkers has fantastic animation and offers an insight into Celtic lore that is both magical and emotional. I may or may not have got a wee bit teary-eyed during the more intimate scenes with the characters, but I think that says a lot about how much heart and effort this film wears on its sleeve regarding the animation and the story itself. Wolfwalkers will be a great family film to watch over the holidays. There are themes worth discussing presented throughout the film, and I think many might find it enjoyable at the very least.
I give Wolfwalkers 4/5 stars.