And so it has been decided that the '80s movie Teen Wolf that was adapted into teen drama TV series Teen Wolf will now once again become a movie (Teen Wolf: The Movie); time is a flat circle, et cetera. While, emotionally speaking, it feels right and good that Teen Wolf (the series), which ran for six seasons on MTV from 2011 through 2017, is now getting the movie treatment, the question must be asked: Do we really need a follow-up movie? The answer is… probably not. But that is no way a knock! In fact, it's a compliment.
In 2017, series creator Jeff Davis and the creative team behind Teen Wolf pulled off a satisfying conclusion to teen alpha werewolf Scott McCall's (Tyler Posey) story and all of the chaotic supernatural happenings in the little town of Beacon Hills, California. Storylines were tied up and (most) characters were given real resolutions to their arcs. We even learned that in the near distant future, Scott was still protecting werewolves who needed it with the help of his pack — both supernatural and human — who would rally behind their leader no matter where they might be in life. It was nice! We had closure! With Teen Wolf: The Movie, the door to that entire world gets kicked open. But while we might not have needed to go back to Beacon Hills, man, is it fun to spend time with these characters again. Maybe that's all the reason one needs to revive a TV series, which was adapted from a movie, with another movie six years after it ended.
Teen Wolf: The Movie picks up 15 years or so since Scott and friends graduated high school. Scott has moved away to run an animal shelter in L.A., Lydia (Holland Roden) is hawking the powers of sound energy (an inspired Adult Job choice for our resident banshee) in San Francisco, and brooding Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) is living that single dad life with teen son Eli (Vince Mattis), but mostly, things remain the same. This, of course, means that it doesn't take long for trouble to find its way to Beacon Hills. That trouble arrives in various forms. Since it was all over the trailer, it's no spoiler to say the trouble includes the fact that a somehow-resurrected Allison Argent (Crystal Reed) — werewolf hunter and Scott's great love, who died in his arms in Season 3 — has no memory of who Scott was to her and a strong desire to murder werewolves. But Allison is not the only familiar face to return: The Nogitsune (Aaron Hendry), the trickster spirit who wreaked havoc on Beacon Hills, leading to Allison's death, is also back to play another one of his little games with Scott. Teen Wolf fans will remember that the Nogitsune's games are less fun and more full of "chaos, strife, and pain." So, sort of the opposite of fun.
It's a smart move to bring the Nogitsune back here — and not just because he's tied to Allison's death, but because the Nogitsune storyline (Season 3B) was one of the best Teen Wolf ever did. He was a compelling villain the first time and remains so here. Of course, it cannot be overstated that Dylan O'Brien's performance was a major reason that arc worked. Fans will remember that the Nogitsune's big move was to possess Scott's best friend, Stiles (O'Brien), giving us the truly evil Void Stiles. O'Brien's performance was unmatched in that batch of episodes. He should've won an Emmy for that scene where he pushes the sword into Scott's gut alone!
Since we've been well-warned that O'Brien decided not to return for this film, bringing back the Nogitsune also serves to remind us of that unfortunate hole in the cast. Yes, O'Brien's absence can be felt. That spark between O'Brien and Posey, one that was foundational to the show, is obviously missing. The Scott and Stiles friendship grounded a series that was very much otherworldly, and Stiles and Lydia's romance was a winning one, so to be unable to revisit those aspects of Teen Wolf more fully is disappointing. But, kids, it is what it is. The good news: Even without their best scene partner, both Posey and Roden turn in what might be their best work of the entire Teen Wolf run. Posey, especially, is great as a more mature albeit desperately heartbroken Scott. If the series was about Scott McCall grappling with being pushed into a leadership role, the movie shows us that he has fully grown into being the alpha — and Posey, too, feels like he's fully grown into that leading man role.
The chemistry between the rest of the cast, which made the series work so well, is still very much intact. That chemistry once again becomes a useful tool to pull out when some of the internal logic of the movie becomes tenuous (at best). To be a fan of Teen Wolf is to have said, more than a few times, That doesn't exactly make sense, but also I do not care. But while it's lovely to have so many cast members return, at certain points, especially in the second half, it feels like a detriment to have to service so many characters. The first half of the movie has a real "we're getting the band back together" vibe and works hard to reorient the audience with what everyone has been up to, but the second half feels rushed. The movie's plot could have been slimmed down and at times feels needlessly complicated: There's the Allison storyline, the Nogitsune's whole deal, and a subplot with the Nogitsune's sidekick, whose "big" identity reveal falls flat, all to take care of.
Teen Wolf: The Movie takes such great care to set up everyone's character arc, and then so many get almost no real resolution (the most egregious being that of a certain wailing woman). Remember how I said the series deftly wrapped things up? Well, there's a whole handful of loose strings left at the end of this movie. Even if that was done on purpose in order to show there's still life in this franchise (the ending certainly makes a case for a sequel), it leaves things frustratingly incomplete. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather devote time to rich character development than spend precious minutes figuring out a ridiculous way to get Scott McCall, an adult man (werewolf) back on a high school lacrosse field. But Teen Wolf is going to Teen Wolf, I guess!
Not all is lost! There are a few characters — Scott and Allison, Derek and Eli — who do get real resolutions to their arcs. Given the space to play out fully, those are the storylines that pack the biggest emotional punches — punches that really land. The emotional heft of Teen Wolf: The Movie isn't all that surprising, really. It was always a supernatural story rooted in relatable human emotion, and it's nice to see that some things will always be the same.
Premieres: Thursday, Jan. 26 on Paramount+
Who's in it: Tyler Posey, Crystal Reed, Tyler Hoechlin, Holland Roden
Who's behind it: Jeff Davis (writer), Russell Mulcahy (director)
For fans of: Teen Wolf (the series)