Review 53: Wolves (2/5)

Wolves

Directed by David Hayter

Starring Lucas Till, Merritt Patterson, Jason Momoa, Stephen McHattie, John Pyper-Ferguson

Released on August 28, 2014

Running time 1h 30m

Rated R

Genre: Horror, Action

The word “werewolf” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “wer”, meaning man, and “wolf”. The two are combined into “werewolf” to quite literally mean “man-wolf”. It is also derived from the Greek words “lykos”, meaning wolf, and “anthropos”, meaning man. The two are combined into “lykanthropos” to quite literally mean “wolf-man”.

This movie can essentially be boiled down to “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah”. It’s a coming-of-age tale about a lycanthropic boy who becomes a man while also becoming a true werewolf.

This could also be seen as just another Twilight ripoff in the same vein as Warm Bodies. While Twilight was whiny and full of teenage angst, Warm Bodies was cutesy and enjoyably cheesy. Wolves is chock full of violence, nigh-hamfisted libidinal overtones, a complete lack of subtlety, and features a hot-turned-awkward-and-uncomfortable sex scene. But Wolves is much more adult than Twilight could ever hope to be. However, that still doesn’t make Wolves any less juvenile or clichéd than it is.

Director David Hayter, as many of you may know, provided the voice for Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid video game franchise. But while also being a competent actor, he is also a prolific screenwriter, his credits including Burn, X-Men, The Scorpion King, X2: X-Men United, and Watchmen. Dude. While I may not have particularly liked any of the aforementioned films, I cannot deny that all but Burn were successful, especially the first two X-Men movies. Wolves is Hayter’s directorial debut. Does it start Solid Snake’s movie directing career on a high note? No, not exactly. But hey, it is the typical mediocre and cheesy film that nearly any director starts his/her career on.

You may recognize Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones, and Conan from the Conan the Barbarian remake. You may also recognize Lucas Till as Alex Summers, AKA Havok from X-Men: First Class / Days of Future Past.

Set in Typical Suburb, USA, our film stars Lucas Till as Cayden Richards, football star. Over the first roughly ten minutes, he slowly but surely discovers his lycanthropy, and winds up killing a football player on an enemy team, hurting his girlfriend, and killing his parents. He flees and lives as a nomad for the next unspecified length of time. Honestly, I wanted this first ten minutes to be its own movie. I wanted more buildup to this lycanthropy. I wanted this to be the masculine edition of Ginger Snaps (great movie, by the way. Check it out). But the first ten minutes were still disappointing, as 2014 is still the Stephanie Meyer age of supernatural creature lore bastardization. I also couldn’t help but notice that The Wolfman remake had better werewolf effects. Even The Howling had better werewolf effects. And those were practical, done in 1980, and done on a $1.5 million budget.

And then the nearly nonstop narration throughout the first twenty-five minutes abruptly stops when Cayden meets Wild Joe, a redneck one-eyed bar fly, and a fellow werewolf, at a bar. He directs Cayden to Lupine Ridge (punpunpunpunpun), or should I say, Archetypal American Heartland Rural Town, USA. Two werewolf tribes live in and around Lupine Ridge: the purebred Town werewolves, or should I say the “tame” werewolves, and the bitten Mountain werewolves, or should I say the “wild”, “bestial”, and “EEEEEEEVIL” werewolves. Cayden stops at a bar, where he simultaneously gets hired as a farmhand by John Tollerman, falls in love with there-is-no-personality-only-Zuul-I-mean-eye-candy Angel, and becomes enemies with the obvious villain, Connor Slaughter, leader of the Mountain werewolves. By the way, have fun seeing Wild Joe in this one scene. He only ever shows up twice more: once to remind us he still exists, and once for the poor plot twist at the climax.

I don’t have much of a problem with Tollerman’s character. But Angel is another story. She is supposed to be this sexy but shrewd and strong character with problems of her own, which essentially amount to her semi-existent relationship with her drunkard sister Gail, and a plot twist I will soon get to. Of course, considering the camerawork reminiscent of Michael Bay focusing on how sexy Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and Nicola Peltz are, Angel and Cayden obviously will be carnally interested in one another, and will eventually have sex. The shots of Angel’s sex appeal in tight-fitting and revealing clothing force us to be PG-13’d to death until the inevitable sex scene in which we actually see the goods that were almost worth waiting for. All the while, she juggles her two never-gelling personalities of Tough Girl and Sexpot.

Also, I expected more out of the character of Connor. I expected him to fit in to one of two obvious ideas: the brutal killer who prefers to do his own dirty work, or the evil mastermind who sits in the background and lets his grunts do his dirty work, but is still amazingly powerful, like Darth Sidious or Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The character of Connor is both of these: A ruthless mastermind who prefers to have his grunts do the dirty work, but isn’t afraid to become a violent brutalizer, get his hands dirty, and take things into his own hands. And that’s all that Connor is. No other character traits whatsoever.

Ultimately, Cayden is just your standard, ordinary teenager from a standard, ordinary coming-of-age movie. He never is shown to have grown up at all by the end of the film, and ultimately, he feels like a young Chris Hemsworth wannabe.

After Cayden spends a while working for Tollerman while developing a relationship with Angel, he returns to the bar one night only to be confronted by his “second cousin” and be told that Cayden is “special”, but is in great danger from Connor and needs to leave Lupine Ridge. Later, Connor and his thugs hunt down, kill, and cannibalize the “second cousin”.

Tollerman tells Cayden of his origins: Cayden was adopted!

JOHNNY CAGE (Mortal Kombat): NOOOOOOO!

Cayden’s real mother, Lucinda, was raped by Connor. She hid in the house of Tollerman and his wife, where she got pregnant and gave birth to Cayden, and killed herself soon after the birth. John also tells of the uneasy peace between the Town and Mountain werewolves comes with the condition that on the next full moon (how conveniently timed), Connor will mate with Angel. Connor desires a son, and doesn’t know about Cayden.

Oh, and a few scenes before or after the aforementioned one, Cayden and Angel have sex. They strip, start screwing, transform into werewolves mid-coitus, and we see a few seconds of the two werewolves going at it. Ew. It’s not very sexy to see two hairy humanoids screwing.

Cayden complains to the Town werewolf leaders, but they are unwilling to do anything about it. So Cayden confronts Connor himself, is overwhelmed by his pack, and barely escapes.

Insert healing scene and training montage here. You’re the best…around/Nothin’s gonna ever keep ya down…

Cayden and Tollerman form a plan to deal with the Connor’s pack. Before they can put it into action, Connor kidnaps Angel and prepares to rape her. Cayden, believed by Connor to be dead, surprises the Mountain pack, where he and Tollerman put their plan into action, utilizing explosives, rather than anything close to silver bullets, to kill them all, except Connor. After a vicious but surprisingly brief brawl, Cayden defeats Connor. Connor then reveals to Cayden that he did not rape Lucinda. He and Lucinda had been in love, but Lucinda’s father was going to kill Lucinda due to the relationship, so to save Lucinda, Connor created the rape story. Wait. So why has Connor become known in these here parts as a ruthless killer?

Jason Momoa’s performance ranges from decently villainous to being such a treat to watch (the equivalent of a big bag of Sour Patch Kids {one of my favorite candies}), especially the one scene in which he gloats and boasts about stealing Angel’s virginity in a seemingly drunken, lascivious, and misogynistic manner. Momoa does not hesitate to let the hamminess flow more than Ponyo. This is when I realized that Wolves should have been a horror comedy, so that Momoa releasing his inner bacon would have had more of a place. He essentially becomes Betelgeuse from Beetlejuice.

And believe me, the movie could have ended with that. Connor acknowledging Cayden as his son, the two parting with honor, he and his tribe leaving Lupine Ridge in peace, and everyone living happily ever after.

But then the movie throws this last little plot twist at us. It turns out that Wild Joe was the mastermind behind all of these events. He reveals that he killed Cayden’s adoptive parents and convinced him to go to Lupine Ridge just so Joe could kill Connor for…some past issues. I don’t know. Joe kills Connor in the worst done throat-slicing ever, and then Cayden tricks him into standing on an explosive, which explodes and kills Joe.

Cayden leaves with Angel to find other purebred werewolves and bring them to Lupine Ridge. And that’s where it ends, with what could be considered sequel bait.

Oh, it’s entertaining, I’ll give it that. It’s incredibly corny, cheesy, and silly. Overall, it’s just an enjoyably stupid popcorn flick that you and some friends can pop a couple of beers over and laugh at. Don’t worry, it’s well worth the money for rental.

Just enter with low expectations, and you’ll have some fun.

Final verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

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