Wolfwalkers is the third and final installment to the “Irish Folklore Trilogy” from Cartoon Saloon. While the animated feature spins a familiar tale, it has profound historical lessons that everyone is not too old to learn.
Wolfwalkers has a distinct animation style that turns it into an immersive storybook and shapes its narrative. The combination of line art, woodblock aesthetic, and Celtic influences speak of tradition, while the story teaches you history.
The walled city of Kilkenny is a gray and cramped place of rigid structures and rules, under the hegemony of Lord Protector Cromwell. It’s the complete opposite of the forbidden forest, a wild and open world of curves, autumn colors, and swirling wolf packs.
Cromwell is determined to get rid of the lupine population and “tame the land”. It’s a tried and tested tactic of colonialization – weaponize superstition and use fear to subjugate the local populace.
The script makes a keen observation that Colonizers also control their own kind to turn them into weapons. Hunter Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) and his daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsay) are uprooted from England and sent to Kilkenny. Both are lead to believe that this foreign land has dangerous man-eating wolves like the rest of the people.
Both Bill and Robyn walk a mile in Mebh’s shoes (paws?), but thankfully Wolfwalkers isn’t a simplistic story. Bill has to overcome his own prejudice and realize that Cromwell isn’t there to protect anyone. Robyn learns empathy and gains a wider perspective of the world. Mebh realizes that she doesn’t have to do everything on her own. The people of Kilkenny are reminded that they share their lands with something older than they are.
The voice acting is great all around. It seems that Sean Bean can only escape his fate in movies in animated films. The writers have decided that since this is an Irish movie, might as well make one of the girls look like Saoirse Ronan.
Wolfwalkers has a predictable story about friendship and obviously borrows a thing or two from Princess Mononoke. But it manages to elevate its generic elements with profound truths and endearing characters.
One might say, Isn’t this just Avatar? Wolfwalkers doesn’t co-opt a Disneyfied story to deliver a 3D novelty. It’s a reminder of how organized religion can detach people from their own roots and establish cultural hegemony. There’s a reverence to Celtic paganism, which eventually lost ground to Christianity.
Wolfwalkers is about preserving ancient traditions, respecting the natural world, and the evils of colonialism.
Wolfwalkers is a detailed, transportive, and profound animated movie about protecting ancient traditions against the evils of colonialism.