MTV // 2011 // 521 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 4th, 2012
Love. Be Afraid.
The werewolf is a useful figure for storytelling. At its base, it's a near-universal metaphor for the "animal" we all have living inside us, our primal desires, our tendency to beastliness. However, beyond that, it's also been useful to make other points, including ones about being foreign (Lon Chaney Jr.'s original The Wolf Man) and the transition to womanhood (Gingersnaps and its sequels). Of course, it's not always taken quite so seriously, and that's how we ended up with the 1985 Michael J. Fox vehicle Teen Wolf. That semi-serious coming-of-age story has been given an edgy updating by the folks at MTV, and this is the result. The basic story of a high school werewolf is intact, but the plot has been expanded to include a more complete mythology. The result is a surprisingly watchable supernatural drama.
One night high-schooler Scott McCall (Tyler Posey, Doc) is out in the woods with his friend Stiles (Dylan O'Brien, High Road) when he's attacked by something large and furry. Overnight, he's transformed from a skinny guy who needs an inhaler (and who can't get on the lacrosse team) to a guy who can hear and smell really well (and can suddenly perform on the lacrosse field). Stiles tumbles to the fact that Scott is a werewolf. As if that weren't complicated enough, there's a new girl in town (Crystal Reed, Crazy, Stupid Love) with a mysterious family, a suspicious werewolf that seems to want to help Scott, and a dangerous werewolf out on the loose terrorizing Scott's town.
I admit to being totally skeptical going into Teen Wolf: The Complete Season One. The premise of high school werewolf was handled just fine by Joss Whedon in Buffy The Vampire Slayer and given MTV's penchant for empty dramas tied to beautiful actors I didn't see much hope for this particular lycanthropic tale.
Luckily, Teen Wolf delivers so much more than its overly processed, borderline objectionable cover art would suggest (I mean, c'mon, he's a high-schooler and his shirt's open like Fabio circa 1994). No, the core of this show is certainly the fact that Scott is dealing with high school and becoming a werewolf, and his two compatriots on the cover certainly play integral parts. However, rather than just making a vapid story of a boy dealing with becoming a werewolf, the series masterfully lays out twelve episodes worth of mythology to keep things going beyond the initial "boy turns into werewolf" premise. Here are just some of the balls Teen Wolf keeps in the air:
* Of course Scott has to deal with becoming a werewolf. It gives him super strength and speed and all that, so naturally he applies it to the lacrosse field. The only problem is he can't get too excited or he changes to a werewolf, which would be bad to do in front of a crowd.
* There's also the typical love story. Scott likes the new girl, and his newfound confidence and lacrosse skills impress her. Everything isn't perfect, though, as she's new in town and working through her own family issues.
* There's a rogue werewolf on the loose. I don't want to give too much away, but the season's main arc concerns identifying and neutralizing a big, bad werewolf who wants Scott for his own nefarious purposes.
* There's also a group of people in town who hunt werewolves. They're after any and all werewolves, teenaged or not. They're hunting the alpha that Scott needs to neutralize, but they're also hunting Scott, which leads to some understandable tension.
Rather than a "problem of the week" format, Teen Wolf pretty effortlessly weaves all of these stories into each episode, making the season almost like a single long movie. I'm not sure it would work over a full season, but for these twelve episodes, it's a perfect choice.
This DVD set is pretty solid as well. The twelve episodes are spread across three discs, and the transfers are excellent. A lot of show takes place at night, but black levels are consistently deep with good shadow detail. Colors are well saturated during daytime scenes, and I didn't notice any compression artifacts cropping up anywhere. The surround track is a bit dialogue-heavy, but the show's music and sound effects are well balanced and some atmospherics are used during exciting sequences.
Extras start with a pair of commentaries on the show's first episode. The first is with the cast, and it's much like watching the episode with them as they goof on various topics and joke around with each other. The other is a "behind the scenes" commentary, including participation from those behind the camera, who discuss the show's technical aspects. The behind-the-scenes commentaries continue for two more episodes ("Heart Monitor" and "Night School"). Numerous episodes get deleted/extended/altered scenes, and there's a gag reel. There's also a montage of all the shirtless guys in the season. Finally, three featurettes cover the cast, the romance plot, and the red carpet for the show.
Of course, Teen Wolf is still a teen drama. Expect the usual high school show clichés about romance and dealing with adults. This show is also aimed at pretty strongly towards the young ladies (which is pretty rare for werewolf stories, Twilight notwithstanding). I'm pretty sure we see every major young male character shirtless and exercising at some point, and the producers take any excuse to get a guy in a shower or a pool that they can. That's not a criticism necessarily, but it does indicate that this show is not aiming for intellectual satisfaction first.
Teen Wolf is not classic television, but it is a solid supernatural drama aimed primarily at the teen set. I'm far from that demographic, but the well-executed storylines and solid performances kept me much more engaged than I would have expected. Combine a strong season with a solid DVD set and it's easy to recommend a rental for the curious or a purchase for fans of the show.
Bitten, but not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 521 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Official Site