Film Review: 'Wolfwalkers' is an animated feature full of magic

Bill Choy
Siskiyou Daily News
One of the best animated films this year, "Wolfwalkers" makes its TV debut.

The extraordinary new animated feature “Wolfwalkers” is a film full of stark beauty and stellar storytelling that should be rightly lauded as a masterpiece. This is a movie that should enchant audiences of all ages. 

It is already one of my 7-year-old daughter's favorites films. She has already watched it three times and constantly listens to the soundtrack. 

Bill Choy is the sports editor for the Siskiyou Daily News and Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers.

“Wolfwalkers” is directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart. This film follows two other wonderful movies made by Moore with themes that encompass Irish culture and mythology, The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014). “Wolfwalkers” is an international co-production led by Cartoon Saloon, which is based in Ireland, and Mélusine Productions. 

Wolfwalkers is set in Ireland, in the town of Kilkenny, in 1650. The town is located next to a beautiful but mysterious woods. Work is being done to clear these woods for farming under orders from the dastardly and coldhearted Lord Protector. The Lord Protector is an Englishman who is all about progress and believes the land is wild and “must be tamed.” In the woods are a pack of wolves which the Lord Protector wants killed. 

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A woodcutter, Seán Óg, believes in the existence of the wolfwalkers after they heal him.  He insists that there is something magical going on and the wolves are being led by Wolfwalkers, who are people that can transform themselves into wolves while their human body sleeps. 

A hunter, Bill Goodfellowe, is sent from England by the Lord Protector to kill the wolves. He brings along with him his young daughter Robyn. A curious girl who wants to help her father kill the wolves, Robyn sneaks out of the town to follow her father. By her side is her trusty pet falcon, Merlyn. After she accidentally shoots her beloved falcon with her crossbow while attempting to kill a wolf attacking a shepherd and his flock, she witnesses something odd. Robyn watches a mysterious girl around her age take Merlyn with her back into the woods with the wolves.  

Robyn’s actions bring down the wrath of the Lord Protector, who now demands her father hunt down all the wolves in only two days, and forces her to toil in his scullery. Robyn manages to sneak away back into the woods to find her bird. She finds Merlyn, miraculously healed, and is approached by a young wolf, which causes her to stumble right into a trap. As the wolf frees Robyn, she tries to attack it, causing the creature to bite her. Merlyn and the wolf lead Robyn back to the wolves’ den, where she meets the young girl she saw earlier, Mebh, a “wolfwalker,”who it turns out, is also the young wolf.  

The two girls get to know each other, and a deep friendship forms. Robyn learns Mebh’s wolfwalker mother, Moll, has not yet returned in her search for a new home for her pack and may be in danger. Robyn discovers the bite has caused her to also become a Wolfwalker, which is quite dangerous considering her father hunts wolves.   

"Wolfwalkers" (Dec. 11, Apple TV+): In the animated Celtic adventure, hunter apprentice Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by Honor Kneafsey, left) befriends Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a girl who can transform into a wolf and is searching for her missing mother.

Children should greatly enjoy the bright and vibrant animation, as well as a number of harrowing and exciting scenes. This includes a sequence where poor Robyn eludes being hunted through the city streets after she transforms into a wolf. There is also a breathtaking scene where Robyn becomes a wolf for the first time, as she relishes the freedom, and the new sights and smells she experiences, as the animation makes viewers feel the exhilaration of her new found wolf form. 

The animation is fully formed and stunning as it gracefully leaps off the screen. This is truly the work of master artists and storytellers. The care that was taken to make this film shows up in every frame. 

“Wolfwalkers” has a lot more on its mind than being a superficial entertainment for kids, although children should enjoy this tale greatly. This is a film that makes commentary about nature and man’s relationship with it, religion, as well as a fascinating look into the political and historical context of life in the 1600s in Ireland.  

I would be shocked if “Wolfwalkers” is not up for best animated film at this year’s Oscars. It is also more than deserving of a best picture nod as well. 

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Sure, this film may be a bit intense for younger viewers. Those who are used to more conventional animated films may be a bit taken aback by its more serious tone in spots. I do believe the majority of people who see this – both young and old alike – will be enthralled. I cannot recommend “Wolfwalkers” more highly.  

Grade: A+ 

Now available to watch on Apple TV+. 

Wolfwalkers is rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, scary images, some thematic elements and brief language. Running length: 103 minutes.