I’m not one to complain too much about hipsters. Sure, the guy at the bar this weekend in the skinny jeans and porkpie hat sort of annoyed me when he rolled up on his single gear bicycle and started smoking a pipe, but I have a subscription to McSweeney’s. I know when my houses are made of glass.
But I hate it when the hipster love of ironically appreciating crap entertainment bleeds over into my actual tastes. Beardo, your My Little Pony t-shirt isn’t funny. And neither are your fur-lined Teen Wolf Nikes.
Yes, Nike has created a set of Teen Wolf sneakers. Beavers color scheme, fur lining and everything. Of course they’re expensive. Ironic hipster appreciation is fractal in its near-infinite diversity. The 1980s alone provided a Mel’s Hole of artless pop culture ephemera to simultaneously mock and financially support. Ironic appreciation of Teen Wolf is a niche market, and even Micronesian orphans don’t work for free.
But what really galls me is that Teen Wolf doesn’t deserve this cultural shitcanning. It’s a good movie, and I like it without any kind of irony. This also some kind of arrested development, emotionally stunted attachment to childhood passions. I loved G.I. Joe as a youngster, but I don’t plan on seeing the movie. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me The Mummy Returns, shame on humanity. Despite Deep Rising, I know better.
At the risk of sounding like a Roger Ebertian critical relativist, Teen Wolf holds up as an example of a movie with very clear goals executed well. This is no I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It’s not camp. Everything is played straight, and no one is taking things too seriously to be caught self-unaware.
Teen Wolf is a better movie than The Dark Knight in this way. No one asked for the comparison, but there you go. In its Sisyphean flex for serious credibility, Christopher Nolan, nepotism run rampant, and the writer/director of Blade Trinity took great pains to explain every bullshit detail of Batman and never, ever be caught winking at the audience. Hence, we have Heat. Only instead of real people, there’s a growly man in a rubber bat suit punching a clown. And this is an “adult” take on the material. I’ll take the Wolfmobile over the fucking Batpod, thanks.
As part of their descent into the sewers of the zeitgeist, MTV recently announced they’re developing a new Teen Wolf TV show. Only this time, they’ll play up the “horror” aspects of the premise. Think: Teenage slasher film gore meets Twilight-style misguided angst. Fifty bucks says a female character at some point decides it’s okay to let her girlfriend maul her if he’s hot enough.
This is the opposite direction Teen Wolf takes as a movie. Scott Howard freaks the fuck out when he’s transforming for the first time in his bathroom. The subtext here is a little bit brilliant. The first indication something’s amiss comes when he finds a suspiciously long chest hair protruding from his barely post-pubescent sternum. He’s hit full-on by his animal nature while sweating into the medicine cabinet mirror. When he lifts up his furry, clawed paws and stares at them in horror, I half expected them to be covered in jizz. It’s a great scene.
And a scene made even better by the reaction of his wolfed out father. (The great character actor James Hampton, who should play the cuddly authority figure in everything.) And the breakfast conversation afterward. Here you go:
Teen Wolf is filled with scenes like this. When Scott turns into the Wolf for the first time in public, during a basketball game, there’s an initial silent shock through the crowd. Then he pulls off some Globetrotter tricks, and everyone’s just glad the team can finally win something. Plus, werewolves are cool. And sexy. Why turn this into a horror film? What’s the point?
Teen Wolf is built on an obvious metaphor, sure, but the writers (Jeph Loeb, Scott M. Rosenfelt, and George W. Perkins take the credit) play out that metaphor with a kind of fun and heart Stephanie Meyer and the brothers Nolan don’t seem interested in touching. It’s the same kind of fun and heart on display in this year’s Star Trek revamp.
Teen Wolf and Star Trek have a lot in common. They’re both filled with otherwise laughable decisions that would be any other movie’s cinematic downfall. Why would Starfleet give their flagship to a crew of hot coeds? Why does every teenager at Beacon Town High look like he’s a week away from qualifying for Medicaid? Whose idea was it to craft a science fiction plot so dependent on coincidence that it offers more evidence for an interventionist God than the Battlestar Galactica finale? Do we really need three musical montages showing us the state of the Teen Wolf’s emotions?
Fuck it. J.J. Abrams and Rod Daniel (who went on to direct Beethoven’s 2nd, so maybe this was just a fluke) know what matters to their story, their characters, and their tone. Without the epic space battles, Star Trek might have felt as light and insubstantial as Teen Wolf feels to people who can’t reconcile fun and fulfillment.
And sweet Christmas, Michael J. Fox was great, wasn’t he? No one has ever been better at playing twitchy and dorky and eager without being annoying. Proof:
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey