Cinema Review: Wolfwalkers | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021  


Studio: Apple TV+
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Nov 16, 2020 Web Exclusive
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The latest animation from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon is an astonishing and beautiful work, a magical, reimagined Irish folk tale set during Cromwell’s oppressive rule in the 1600’s.

Robyn and her hunter father find themselves upended and thrown across the Irish sea in order to help the Lord Protector with his city’s wolf problem. ‘Goodfellowe’, a gruff English hunter, has been charged with leading the effort in ridding the local countryside of its wolves, something Robyn, a young huntress in the making, certainly believes she can help with. But when Robyn meets a fiery and feral forest dweller Mebh, her attitudes towards the wolf pack begin to shift. Akin to her new supposed foe Mebh – who can magically transform into a wolf at night – Robyn’s feelings develop into something more profound and understanding. She undergoes something of a transformation herself.

And whilst Robyn is enchanted by this newly discovered world of wolves and wolfwalkers, the magic can’t last. This world is in grave danger, chiefly from her own father and the Lord Protector’s army. It is this realisation that perhaps makes this film feel so current. An entire generation of children are able to see more of the natural world than ever before, thanks to tv, film and social media… and yet at the same time they are becoming acutely aware of the damage done by their parents and grandparents’ generations, with a climate emergency now fully underway.

Wolfwalkers is not just thematically current however. The style of animation is a subtle yet refreshing mixture of traditional and modern styles used to truly unique and mesmerising effect. Swirling pencil lines playfully merge and morph as the wolves’ tear through the leaves and trees of the thick forest. The transformation from human to wolfwalker is made up of traditional Celtic patterns and imbued with an autumnal golden light. As if actual magic has lifted illustrations from the pages of a fairy-tale.   

In order to protect this beautiful world, Robyn must help Mebh find her missing mother. She must also convince her father that this wondrous world exists on the outskirts of the city within touching distance, and that a peaceful solution can be found. One that can benefit both the wolves and the townsfolk. But with the tyrannical Lord Protector breathing down his neck, Goodfellowe has no time for what he sees as tall tales. As an army bears down on the wolves and their habitat, their very existence hangs in the balance.

But Wolfwalkers never strays too far from its roots in the mystical tales of yore – and with the inspired voice casting of Sean Bean there are deliberate echoes of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings here. Stories where magic can prevail against the crueller machinations of mankind. Wolfwalkers has all this majesty and then some. A truly extraordinary film, as beautiful as it is prescient.

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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