By Ray Liu
[This article contains spoilers of Teen Wolf, the series, and Teen Wolf: The Movie.]
Let sleeping dogs lie—or in this case, wolves. What started out as a highly anticipated fan-dedication project quickly became the fandom’s worst nightmare. Showrunner Jeff Davis’s arguably most successful television series Teen Wolf returned after the original series wrapped it up six years ago—this time, in a movie. Teen Wolf originated from Jeff Davis, who wrote the screenplay, and quickly became the bread and butter for MTV’s prime-time, cable television slot, running from 2011 through 2017. Davis just debuted a new show with wolf-appeal, Wolf Pack for Paramount+, and is working on a reboot of Aeon Flux.
The charm about Teen Wolf, the series, was the way it focused on solid storytelling, paired with hot people. Each season follows our beloved teenage banshee Lydia (played by Holland Roden), kitsune Kira (Arden Cho), werecoyote Malia (Shelley Hennig), and werewolves Scott (Tyler Posey) and Derek (Tyler Hoechlin), and human teenagers Allison (Crystal Reed) and Stiles (Dylan O’Brien), as they face new threats against their small town of Beacon Hills, fictionally set in California. Some of the best villains that our main heroes Scott and Stiles face in the show are the pack of werewolves, made up of all alphas (leaders of a werewolf pack), and the kanima (technically, a lizard creature who was just a pawn to evil and grumpy Gerard Argent, Allison’s grandfather). This teen-thriller series kept viewers at the edge of their seats for six seasons, with mysterious and new creatures being introduced each season.
By the series finale, each major character, with the exception of Arden Cho’s bad-ass kitsune character, Kira, received a satisfactory ending. (If anyone knows where Kira is, please let me know. I hope she’s doing okay in that desert with the bone people.)
Ultimately, the series ended with the majority of the fans being content. We got to see our favorite TV besties graduate high school. Unfortunately, for Davis, he decided to undo the ribbon that perfectly wrapped up the series by making this film a reality. Imagine getting out of a wolf’s den alive and then having the smart idea of going back in—like, please don’t.
The movie was announced in 2021, ten years after the series’ premiere, as a way to commemorate the show’s success and thank fans for their long-standing dedication. Unfortunately, I was one of their fans. To say I wasn’t slightly excited for the film when the news was announced would make me a liar.
Teen Wolf was probably the only American television series that I tuned in every week as it aired. But never would I have thought that the film would progressively get worse as I watched it. After over two, long hours of torture, I was shattered and left with no words to say. I thought I was the only one feeling this way, but it seems like Davis had woken up some unhappy wolves.
Did fans ask for this movie? As far as I know, we did not. Quite frankly, the majority of the Wolf Pack (Teen Wolf fandom name, semi-official) was content with the cast posting little memories of the show on their social media platforms occasionally. In fact, Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien didn’t know about the show’s return in movie format, which led him to decline the project. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter O’Brien shared why he wouldn’t be reprising his role as Stiles: “[Teen Wolf] was already left in a really nice place, you know? So I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want to fuck with it.” This is why we love him, and I believe his sentiment is shared among many fans, including myself.
It’s okay to make a fan-service film for a large fandom that enjoyed the series. Most times, it’s the right move. But Teen Wolf: The Movie lacks a story that is fresh and worth watching. Our hero Scott returns to his hometown with no significant change, and the pacing of the film feels dated in the early 2010s, .relying on both overdone and underdone flashbacks to the series. On top of that, some of the show’s most coveted cast members, O’Brien and Arden Cho, declined to appear in the film, thus making it harder for Davis and his team to keep the story organized, and it shows.
The only measurement of time we have in Teen Wolf: The Movie, if we’re comparing it to the original series, is that the gang reunites fifteen years after their high school graduation, but lots of plot holes arise in this one-off. The man known for his jawline, Jackson, suddenly returns from London without his boyfriend. Kira is still MIA, and no one is actively looking for her (makes me question just how loyal of friends these Beacon Hills alumni are).
Derek Hale suddenly shows up with his fifteen-year-old son, and no one asks or talks about who the mother might be. And of course, the fandom’s favorite character, Stiles, is apparently a sheriff in another town, city, state (we don’t know), and he’s just too busy to return to his hometown despite literal darkness approaching. While this is because O’Brien didn’t return – and no one blames him (we really didn’t ask for this film) – there are many ways to work around cast member scheduling conflict and other stuff. The explanation that Davis gives us through Stiles’s father Sheriff Stilinksi’s mouth was lazy and borderline disrespectful to the fans.
Allison’s Return is a Recipe for Destruction
The most unforgettable season of all was the one where our anti-heroine Allison (played by Crystal Reed) dies at the sword of an oni after figuring out the secret weapon that could kill an oni: silver. Dying in protagonist Scott McCall’s arms, fans were forced to say goodbye to a character that had lots of potential. At the 2015 Paleyfest panel, showrunner Davis shared how painful it was for him to rewatch Allison’s death. Though it came as a shocker for fans at the time, Allison’s death ultimately launched the show into a new horizon. Davis did well to honor Reed’s pivotal arrow-shooting character.
Since the beginning of the series, Allison’s character has been swept into a Romeo & Juliet-like storyline: a werewolf hunter who falls in love with a werewolf. For three seasons, fans witnessed the ups and downs and heartbreaks between these two star-crossed lovers. Allison’s death was pivotal to subsequent seasons. Just how do you move on after losing someone who is a daughter, a first love, and a kind friend?
Resurrection was not something that Davis dipped his toes in—at least not with this series. So it felt off and confusing to see Allison return from the dead. After three seasons of an Allison-less story, and a couple of years post-finale, Allison Argent magically rises from the dead, lying there naked on the surface of that damned tree stump, the Nemeton. All hell breaks loose when Allison reunites with the pack.
The Nogitsune Just Isn’t Scary Anymore
Davis relies heavily on the proven-successful nogitsune plot and villain from the third season, which gave viewers and fans the series’s first impactful death of a main character. The nogitsune plot also launched O’Brien’s acting chops into another level, as we got to witness Dark Stiles (the nogitsune possess Stiles) and O’Brien’s haunting performance. It seems that Davis chose to capitalize on this plot and villain’s popularity to ensure the show’s fans’ satisfaction. This was a mistake. The success of the nogitsune lore and arc came from Davis’s research and introduction of this Japanese demon of darkness at a time when no one else had done it. Seeing this creature again draws little to no reaction from me as a viewer who sat through the entire season in 2013, ten years ago. Simply put, the nogitsune isn’t scary anymore.
The Many “WTF is Going On?” in Teen Wolf: The Movie
Much of the film comprises flashbacks of Allison and Scott’s puppy love era, which is fair, so that new viewers can understand why Allison’s resurrection means so much to Scott. In this film, we see several flashbacks of the same scene where Allison gets a samurai sword plunged through her torso (we really didn’t need all those reminders). If we didn’t resurrect Allison back then, why are we bringing her back 15+ years later?
We see romantic relationships form and break apart without any viable explanation. Sure, Teen Wolf star Dylan O’Brien declined to reclaim his role as the fan-favorite, Stiles, but the reasoning behind Lydia’s breakup with Stiles leaves fans perplexed. Apparently, Lydia foresees her future with Stiles, in which Stiles ends up dying in a gruesome car accident. It’s a weak reason for their breakup, because Lydia would have surely seen that vision years ago. This breakup felt lazy. Then, there’s the sucker-punched romance between Malia (the werecoyote) and Jordan Parrish (the hellhound). Where, when, why, and how did these characters link up? In the series, these two characters barely interact, and somehow they are now fornicating in the sheriff’s station, while the entire town is plagued by the nogitsune’s return.
What about our favorite kanima-werewolf hybrid? Jackson, the snarky jock whose ambiguous supernatural identity is constantly questioned throughout the series, returns as the only comedic relief. Dylan O’Brien’s shoes are quite big to fill, but I will hand it to Colton Haynes for giving it his best. Problem is, Jackson’s jokes allude to information (inside jokes) that only the loyalest of fans would understand. Again, Davis fails to provide context in these critical moments in the film. But more importantly, Jackson’s character has no story and no reason for being in this movie.
Derek Hale all the way bak in S1.Ep2
Derek Hale: The Death that Didn’t Need to Be
The ultimate dagger that Jeff Davis drove into fans’ hearts is how he completely obliterated the character the fans love: Derek Hale. Derek is a character who is virtuous and the only adult whom the pack can trust. A complex character, as we learn in season 3, episode 8, of the series, Derek struggles to live as a werewolf who was born into a long lineage of wolves (he was born a wolf, not bitten). At fifteen, he was put in a position where he’d take the life of his first love, Paige, after his family turned her into a werewolf. Not all people who are bitten by a werewolf can smoothly transition—some, like Paige, cannot endure the transformation and are left in deep pain. At Paige’s request, Derek helps end her suffering. In return, he has blood on his hands, thus triggering the wolf code in the Teen Wolf lore: A beta wolf who’s never taken a life remains having amber-yellow eyes; a beta wolf who’s taken the life will have blue eyes that resemble the cold nature of the beast inside them.
The Derek we see in the series becomes a protector and nurturer, seeing how he takes Scott under his wings and denounces the ways of his family’s toxic traditions. Played by Tyler Hoechlin, the current Superman in the CW’s Superman & Lois, Derek Hale was one of the characters I looked forward to most, when the series originally ran. The blue-eyed wolf that shields his soft-hearted personality with a hard exterior resonated with many teenagers and young adult viewers of this supernatural television series. In hindsight, perhaps Derek’s character and rich backstory make him too developed for Teen Wolf: The Movie.
Derek was treated the worst throughout the series. From taking bullets for our heroes and getting hunted by the Argent family (werewolf hunters) to getting stabbed by nearly every single villain of each season, Derek is always under some form of torture in the canon.
Hoechlin’s lowkey and charismatic personality added to Derek’s awesomeness. I don’t know, I don’t make the rules. On top of that, Derek’s one and only romance arc involved his lover being a gory-faced demonic druid. That didn’t turn out so well; yikes. Seriously, Derek can never catch a break. So when Davis decided to write into this film a son for Derek, I knew something was off.
Who is this child’s mother? We do not know. The film is set fifteen years after the teenage heroes graduate from high school, and Derek’s son, Eli, is coincidentally fifteen years old. There is no evidence of Derek having a romantic partner at the end of the series, let alone a fling who would bear his child. The only acceptable reasoning behind adding Eli to the mix is to maintain the validity of this series and movie title. Eli is the token to the “teen” in Teen Wolf.
The film struggles to maintain the main plot of the story, as Eli’s character adds lots of weight to make him the main character at times, surpassing Scott’s story in saving Beacon Hills from Allison, the nogitsune, and the onis. Naturally, born to a werewolf father, Eli has werewolf blood in his veins.
Eli has a fear of werewolves and becoming one himself, after he saw his father shapeshift one night to protect him from a pack of wild coyotes that broke into their house when Eli was a pre-schooler. The film focuses on this aspect of the coming-of-age werewolf – an arc was the most promising in this entire movie, since it does not rely on past arcs to make it convincing or entertaining.
At the final act of the film, the nogitsune drags all our heroes to a parallel plane that sits beneath—oddly—the lacrosse field (weird choice, but okay). Derek and Eli are sucked into this netherworld, and after several unnecessary fight sequences, the nogitsune is finally contained by our heroes Scott, Derek, and Eli. Since the nogitsune cannot be killed, he can only be sent back to hell through the flames of the hellhound’s hell fire. In the process, Derek sacrifices himself so that Scott and Eli wouldn’t have to be taken by the hell fire along with the nogitsune. Debate all you want, but Jordan Parrish—the hellhound—is a big guy, and he can easily hold down the nogitsune (it’s literally his job). So spare us the Titanic floating-door complex. That door had enough room for both Rose and Jack, and this hellhound can very much send the demon back to hell, single-handedly, with his hell fire.
When Derek holds down the nogitsune as the hell fire consumes him, his eyes turn red—the same color as Scott McCall’s—making him a true alpha werewolf. This is the reason why Davis writes the death of Derek Hale in the film. It was another way to portray the supernatural rules of the true alpha: Scott achieved this status without having killed anyone and solely by his good-natured, selfless spirit.
However, I don’t believe this reasoning is enough to shatter the perfect story of Derek Hale for fans of this character. At this point of the film, I was caught between a rock and a hard place: Do I finish the last five minutes of this film, or do I cut my losses and pretend this film never happened? The placement of Derek’s death in the film is pointless. We barely get to see Eli grieve, and there certainly is not enough time left of the film for viewers to see Eli’s character change after his father’s death.
A Movie that Left Fans Howling and Roaring for the Wrong Reasons
What started out as a fan-appreciation project by the creators of this mega-successful MTV series ended up becoming these fans’ nightmare. From the disconnection to the canon, to the refusal to explain unsolicited relationship fumbles, to the death of one of TV’s best characters, Teen Wolf: The Movie broke the fandom’s heart. Was this heartbreak worth the fifteen-years-too-late resurrection of Allison Argent? It seems, after reading other reviews and seeing fans’ reactions, it was much too high a cost. Nothing makes sense in this film, the plots are premature and predictable, and the cast could easily have given fans their appreciation via a reunion tour and left it at that.
In an interview with Screen Rant, Jeff Davis shares that “Paramount+ is interested in doing more features [of the Teen Wolf franchise], with the decision ultimately boiling down to the reviews for Teen Wolf: The Movie.” Davis is hopeful for a sequel film that would include Dylan O’Brien’s return, but having suffered through this film, I would rather lock the door and throw away the key to the Teen Wolf universe. In my opinion, I believe the series managed to give us—between 2011 and 2017—six seasons of a masterfully crafted story that exceeded MTV’s standards. As for the movie, fans have spoken on social media. As a fan of the series, I think it’s time to let sleeping wolves lie.
About the author
Ray Liu is a New York-based Chinese-American writer who enjoys escaping to the world of Japanese anime films and Korean dramas series. With a master’s degree in English, he specializes in Asian American literature and narratives with a focus on close-reading that connects works of fiction to real, human issues. His YouTube channel, “rayliur,” focuses on skincare and cozy living.
You made a major mistake – you use a few comments to prove the point that the fandom didn’t like the movie. The majority loved it – I know this from Facebook groups. The group I run has over 5,000 members. Majority? Loved it. You’re entitled to an opinion. Just don’t blow it out of proportion. We would love another movie.
This article really really REALLY needed an editor.
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