If you’ve ever wondered about the process that goes into training animals for movies — specifically ones that feature wildlife in prominent roles — then Wolves Unleashed – Against All Odds could be the movie for you. If you love looking at wolf pups as they grow up, bond, and interact with each other, and that’s enough to entertain, then perhaps this could also be the film for you. However, as a documentary that raises more questions than it does answers, it’s hard to be okay with just being shown a video diary that has no real meaning behind it. The equivalent of a behind-the-scenes featurette that should only last 10 minutes at the most, Wolves Unleashed is a boring slog of a film that does the bare minimum, with no directorial decision that makes any sense.
Director and star Andrew Simpson is a professional animal trainer tasked with raising wolf pups and training them to be ready for the 2015 Chinese film Wolf Totem. Not often is the logline of a movie the entire plot, but in the case of Wolves Unleashed, it most certainly is. The problems that plague this film arise from the very beginning, when it is clear that there does not seem to be any production value put into this endeavor, which plays quite literally as a series of video diaries stitched together and narrated over by Simpson (who could not sound less enthused, despite clearly enjoying his job). Occasionally, a tiny bit of music will play, but it’s usually very quiet and sounds like it was ripped from a “These Cats are Too Adorable” YouTube video.
On top of all of this, there is virtually no drama. The film opens with a mystery of what happened to the pups, and questions the ethics of how China’s film industry handles animals for film, but it never answers any of these questions, and just kind of shrugs when recalling the events. Early on, all the wolves get paralysis in their legs, and Simpson just says “We have no idea why this happened” before continuing on with the production. This footage is from 2012, and there’s not even an attempt to make things compelling or provide answers.
It’s really sad when something like this poses a couple questions that you would really like answers for, then doesn’t deliver. It’s worse when it’s a documentary; after all, research is a very crucial component of documentary filmmaking. Wolves Unleashed – Against All Odds is a thrown-together, overlong featurette that has its heart in the right place, but has no skill in how to convey the love for these animals nor the difficulties of training these wolves. It’s the equivalent of someone cracking eggs over a stove, but forgetting to turn the stove on. Maybe someday this aspect of filmmaking will be examined with more effort than is on display here.