As much as you can enjoy the massive development animated movies have had in recent years in terms of visuals or photo realism, it’s for sure nice to get at least one that you can nearly see the handprints on the surface. The company behind Wolfwalkers is Cartoon Saloon which has received Oscar nominations for all their previous feature films and that trend most likely will continue with this film. Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart from a script written by Will Collins, there’s a real sense of layered storytelling and visual flair mixed together and that is what makes the film so great. It’s always engaging with the viewer’s sight and hearing, yet it wows you more emotionally than in a technically impressive kind of way.
We are dropped to 17th century Ireland where a young girl Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) has been relocated to along with his wolf hunter father Bill (Sean Bean). Bill has been appointed by town dictator Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) to kill all the wolves while Robyn meets a young shapeshifter Mebh (Eva Whittaker) who is ’’a girl when awake, wolf when asleep’’. One of the first striking things that might catch your attention while watching could be the overall look, however. Heavy line work, washed colours in backgrounds as if the movie was getting finished right in front of your eyes. What was really appealing was how aforementioned characters are separated from the background by using their designs as well as controlling the colour schemes. There are also extraordinary sequences such as the ’’wolf’s view’’ where it breaks those schemes, further expanding the visual landscape.
Those characters also have some of the finest voice work of the year backing them up even more. McBurney brings menace to the Lord Protector while Kneafsey and Whittaker bring the brightness, though they also perform heavier moments with rage as well. Despite being in animated form, I don’t think kids younger than seven will find it interesting or safe enough. Wolfwalkers actually goes quite far thematically—touching on religion, politics, human versus nature issues and even genocidal tendencies.
Collins’ script and director duo's story handle that extremely well and it has a rare richness that will make both adults and children think more than the usual animated film. It actually annoys me a bit that I don’t really know exactly what would’ve improved it, maybe it’d play better if it was 10 minutes shorter or it found a twist at the end to really drive its themes home? Not sure about those but it still is a remarkable awards contender nonetheless.
Smileys: Character design, colouring, screenplay, voice acting, story
Frowneys: Nothing really
Happy for all 17 people subscribed to Apple TV+ who can watch it right now.