Wolfwalkers (2020): My Thoughts on Apple TV+’s First Animation

“Wolfwalkers” is directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, who worked together on 2014’s “Song of the Sea” and stars Honor Kneafsey (Our Zoo, A Christmas Prince), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Martian), Simon McBurney (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Theory of Everything), Tommy Tiernan (Derry Girls, The Tommy Tiernan Show), Jon Kenny (Song of the Sea, Angela’s Ashes), John Morton (Lily’s Bad Day, Storyland), and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Orphan Black, Jupiter Ascending). This film is about a young girl named Robyn Goodfellowe who journeys with her father to hunt down wolves in Ireland. However, things change when another young girl, Mebh Óg MacTíre who can transform into a wolf becomes friends with her.

I saw the trailer for “Wolfwalkers” in the theater when I was seeing Netflix’s “Over the Moon,” which by the way, you should check out if you have not already. I thought I would check out the film when it came out wherever it was playing. Although, I was also aware of its Apple TV+ release as well. “Wolfwalkers” was one of those movies that sort of came for a short time, stayed for short time, then suddenly disappeared. I wanted to see this in the theater, but due to time, money, and the fact that my AMC A-List subscription does not count towards Fathom Events screenings, I decided to skip the film. Only problem, I do not use any Apple products other than a 4th generation iPod Touch from time to time, and I don’t get Apple TV+ where I traditionally watch television. …Or so I thought. Thankfully, I recently found out that the service was released onto the PS4 last month, thus opening the door to me being able to see this movie. So, what did I think?

Out of all the animations that have come out this year, “Wolfwalkers” is by far the most unique. This has the least involvement from people associated with the United States of the animated flicks I’ve seen in 2020, and that sort of helped. At times it didn’t feel very… I don’t usually use this term, but “Hollywood.” This is not to say the film is bad. In fact, it is quite marvelous. Of the animations I have seen this year, “Wolfwalkers” may be my runner up. My #1 animation is the recently mentioned “Over the Moon,” by the way. However, in a world where animations are often glossy, uber-detailed 3D adventures, it is somewhat refreshing to see something that feels more rustic. This feels kind of like looking at a children’s book at times. It sort of has that homey feel. When I watched the film I sort of compared the animation style to “Where’s Waldo?” meets “Paper Mario.” I don’t know why, those are just the images that popped into my head. A lot of frames are magnificently crafted, and I can only imagine how difficult it may have been to storyboard some of them.

However, with all this gloss and hooplah on the tech, the drawings, and the overall look of the film, this sort of dives into a minor problem. While the story is incessantly marvelous and enchanting from start to finish, there are a couple moments, particularly towards the beginning that feel a tad slow and out of proper pace. This pacing issue most certainly improves with time, but it is nevertheless there. This is not to suggest that the film provides a terrible story. It absolutely does not. It is a fantastic story that maybe is not handled to perfection all the way through. Although some of the moments with the wolfwalkers and what they are capable of towards the beginning provides for some eye-catching exposition.

Character-wise, this movie has a couple great relationships. You have the constantly developing relationship between Robyn and Mebh, while at the same time we have a relationship between Robyn and her father, Bill, that starts out kind of strong, but gets rockier as we go. Robyn’s handling between these two relationships makes the movie worth watching, because we get a glimpse of her dealing with a world that seems quite fantastical but to her, it is a reality that she just happened to step upon. It’s almost like if Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” were able to visit Oz anytime she wants, but everyone in her normal life refuses to acknowledge such a fantastical world could exist. From this notion, the movie brings a witchcraft element into the mix, putting a heavy target on our protagonist’s back, and I liked the way such a storyline was handled.

If there is something that “Wolfwalkers” got right that does not have to do with tech, it would be the buildup of conflict. By the end of the film, everything felt like it was reaching a tipping point, and the climax did not lack a single ounce of excitement. There were one or two predictable points, but it did not irritate me.

Although if I had to come up with a single character problem it would be that there is a particular scene where the father and daughter are at home together, and Robyn tries to explain about the wolf realm. Each time, she is interrupted. I get that this is a cartoon, but when it comes to suspense of disbelief, that may have been a tad too much.

Little sidenote, when it comes to the music in “Wolfwalkers,” it is not my favorite of the year. There’s nothing terrible about it, it’s just not a standout candidate for Best Score. Nothing against Bruno Coulais, who composed the film’s music. By the way, Coulais also composed the score for the 2009 animation “Coraline,” which makes a lot of sense. While the scores, based on my memory, do not sound exactly the same, I often got “Coraline” vibes upon reflecting on “Wolfwalkers” given the link between worlds, one world being fantasy and one reality. Both films also have a young girl going on a journey, a massive transformation, and there are occasionally some dark moments in the film. Both literally and figuratively. However, if you do watch the movie, there is a really good rendition of the song “Running with the Wolves,” sung by Norwegian artist Aurora, who already made the song in 2014, but she redid it specifically for this film. As far as alternate songs for films go, it is very well done, but it has nothing on the redo of “Holding Out for a Hero” in “Shrek 2.”

In the end, “Wolfwalkers” is a solid animation debut for Apple TV+ as a distribution outlet. A lot of time and care went into each frame, the characters are fun and joyful, and the colors are rustic yet vibrant. …If that makes any sense. This is good film to watch if you are with younger children. I can guarantee you that their intelligence (and yours) will not be insulted. Keep in mind, this blog is being written by a citizen of the United States, and as a citizen of the United States, I do have to remind some of my viewers that there may be some jumbly moments in “Wolfwalkers” in terms of accents, but if you can get past that, this film may be a win for you, and possibly the family. I am going to give “Wolfwalkers” an 8/10.

“Wolfwalkers” is now available exclusively on Apple TV+ for all subscribers. The service is $4.99/month, but if you buy an Apple device in the future such as an iPhone, you may be able to use Apple TV+ for free through one year if you wish to have the service.

Thanks for reading this review! Sticking on the topic of animated films, I have plans to watch Pixar’s “Soul” which is set to stream exclusively on Disney+ at no extra cost to subscribers on December 25th. I will also be watching “Wonder Woman 1984.” I have tickets to see the film in IMAX on December 27th. So if I play my cards right, I should have my “Soul” review up first, then my review for “Wonder Woman 1984.” We are getting down to the wire in terms of how many films I have left to watch this year. But as we get down that wire, I just want to remind you that this January I will be revealing my picks for my Top 10 BEST Movies of 2020 and my Top 10 WORST Movies of 2020. Stay tuned everyone! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Wolfwalkers?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie with wolves in it? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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