Saturday, February 9, 2013

Celluloid Stuff: Canis Lupus Edition

          The other night I had the distinct pleasure of watching The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and a slew of recognizable (if, perhaps, unnameable) character actors. The film follows a group of oil riggers, traveling from  the pipelines to anchorage, whose plane goes down over the wilds of Alaska. In the wake of the crash, the seven living men find themselves stranded in the frozen wastes and, worse, infringing upon the hunting grounds of a particularly vicious wolf pack. From there on you can reach into your big bag of cliches and figure out the rest of the synopsis: the men must band together to face the wolves and (you guessed it) themselves in order to survive.

I'm everyone - and no one. Everywhere - nowhere. Call me Darkman.

          Realistically the movie could have been renamed Liam Neeson Vs. Wolves and it would have better highlighted the best/most defining characteristics of the film. That's not to say that there's no merit to the rest of the story; there's actually some rather moving character development and effective plot devices throughout the film. But, come on, look at this guy: he's got a knife taped to one hand and wolverine-style airplane liquor bottle claws on the other. No award winning writing or mind-bending plot twist can eclipse the rough-and-tumble badassery of Mr. Schindler himself. Comedic swooning aside, the movie was better than I had anticipated and has led me to create this list of other noteworthy wolf-based movies. Much to my chagrin, however, it is actually pretty tough to find quality films that include lupine creatures of the non-were nature. As such, this list is rather brief.

Wolfen (1981):
Who's a hungry boy?

          When Detective Dewey Wilson is assigned to investigate the gruesome homicide of a millionaire and his wife, he soon connects the case to a trail of murders (primarily those of drunkards, druggies, and derelicts) seemingly animalistic in nature. His search leads him to (a much younger) Edward James Olmos and a group of Noreastern natives who tell them legend of a wolf-pack that once roamed the lands, but has since moved their killing grounds to the slums of New York City.

This, but on a faded black t-shirt that I "discovered" at an overpriced vintage boutique

          Besides having some very excellent 80's cover and poster art, this movie boasts some rather impressive effects and cinematography for its time and genre. If you like old horror movies that aren't your run-of-the-mill monster/slasher/cheese-fests, give this one a couple hours of your time. You likely wont regret it. And even if you do, you'd best keep it to yourself... wolves can smell displeasure and they aren't particularly fond of it.

Jungle Book (1967):
They're only happy cause he still tastes like the bbq sauce he had on his pulled pork sandwich at lunch

          Yes, I know this toon isn't about wolves, per se, but Mowgli wouldn't be around if he hadn't been raised by them. And that's a win in my book. For wolves. A win for wolves. Anyway, the synopsis goes like this: this kid has a long and rich life growing up in a den of wolves and then some other stuff happens. The End. If you don't know this story, don't take my word for it, watch it yourself. Or go crawl into a dark dank crevasse somewhere because you don't deserve sunlight; the Jungle Book is an obligatory children's movie and it is to be respected as such.

Jungle Book (1994):
You bred raptors?! 

          The same as above, except Mowgli looks like Liu Kang and Sam Neil has a mustache.

Princess Mononoke (1997):
I don't think they'd be so keen on her if they knew where she got that animal skin cape

          If you don't immediately shy away from animated works from across the Pacific pond, then this film is easily the best on the list. If you do, perhaps the time has come to open your mind just a tad and give our Japanese comrades another chance. And, for the record, it isn't just this film; every film by the renowned Studio Ghibli is a gem in one way or another...that is, unless you don't like heathen.

She looks exactly like Amanda Seyfried

          When a rural village is attacked by a demon, a local boy stops it only to find that the demon is, in fact, a cursed boar god and, unfortunately the deadly curse has been passed on to to the boy. Fortunately, the very same curse gives the boy super-human strength (the kind of strength one might use to, say, arrow someone's arm off their body in the midst of battle or perhaps tie your shoes so tightly, not even your greatest nemesis could untie them). Anyway, the kid finds out there may be a cure for this curse of his somewhere in the west, and so the quest begins. Eventually he arrives at Iron Town, a town known for mining...iron (spoiler alert) that also happens to be responsible for the boar god's curse. You see, the town is sucking their resources from the surrounding land, a land riddled with forest spirits and gods of all shapes and sizes (most of whom are not too keen on the humans and their interloping), and if they aren't kept in check... bad stuff will happen. Oh, also there's this girl who hangs out with these really big wolves and she does some stuff or whatever.

Why I Didn't Put The Breed, starring Michelle Rodriguez, on This List:
From the Rob Liefeld school of perspective

          Dogs. Not wolves. And that movie was terrible.

          Aside from being sure to mention that scene in Beauty and the Beast when Belle escapes and Beast has a throwdown with some big bad you-know-whats, that about wraps up my list. If you've got some noteworthy wolf movies that aren't of the were- variety, you be sure to let me know. Tanks!