A little too late to cash in on the “Twilight” trend, but perhaps what fans of the genre need, Wolves brings the young adult audience front and center once again, despite the recent decline in vampire and werewolf themed movies. It has everything it needs to appeal to such a crowd, and yet will probably be held back by this very fact; coming so late into the game, when even adoring fans are growing wise to clichéd plot devices, it seems to insult the intelligence of the audience, rather than attempting to build upon the basic formula in any way.
Predictably, the hero of this story is a young man who has the perfect life — Cayden Richards is not only the quarterback of his high school football team, but also has a beautiful girlfriend and the promise of a strong future. All of this is thrown into disarray when Cayden becomes more and more violent for inexplicable reasons, if we ignore the fact that he’s obviously a werewolf. After a particular episode in which he wakes up to find his parents ripped to pieces, he runs away, adopting the life of a nomad as he tries to understand more about himself. Eventually, he encounters another like himself, and is directed to the small town of Lupine Ridge — a town Cayden himself describes as “having secrets.” While one family takes him in, giving him a job and a roof to sleep under, a larger section of the community seem distinctly displeased with his arrival, and the more of the town’s secrets Cayden discovers, the more he learns about his past.
Complete with a romance in the form of Angelina, a spiky young woman caught in a transaction she can’t escape, the film does a good job of keeping its plot moving without seeming chaotic. The inevitable downfall of a YA film is any moment too introspective, allowing us to think a little too much on just what the film is, and so Wolves makes light work of these moments, often following them up with an action sequence set to a classically cool soundtrack. Interestingly, these action scenes are not only entertaining, but also reasonably gruesome, allowing the film to seem slightly grittier and edgier than its vampire-filled counterparts without stepping into the territory of horror. Nevertheless, this element of gore will not be enough to generate interest for an older audience, given the intensely melodramatic vibe running through the film, and the strong focus on the young love between Cayden and Angelina.
The characters themselves are not particularly strong, with Angelina being the only really likable one. She is played well by Merritt Patterson (“Primary”), but is far too underwritten, which frustratingly results in her being little more than a stock female character. Jason Momoa (“Conan the Barbarian”) is criminally underused as resident bad-guy Connor, forced to limit much of his acting to a few drawn out shots in which he looks menacing. Cayden, played by Lucas Till (“X-Men: First Class”), dances the line between being a sympathetic protagonist and simply an annoying one, and he isn’t assisted by the design of the werewolves. Looking less like wolves and more like hairy, fanged versions of their human forms, the werewolves are dangerously close to being comical. While Momoa escapes this fate by being inherently scary, and Patterson manages to bring sex appeal to her wolf form, Till is left often looking like he simply hasn’t shaved for a few months.
The biggest problem with Wolves, however, is that its lack of originality leaves it feeling entirely voiceless. While aspects of it are entertaining, they are almost lost in a sea of triviality, and certainly forgotten by the time we leave the theater. For a film centered around a high school boy who turns into a werewolf one day, it certainly isn’t all bad, but with just a few riskier choices in its screenplay and style, it could have given us a lot more to sink our teeth into.