OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.
TEEN WOLF (1985)
THE LAST THING WE SAW: We paused at 00:45:30, just after Scott and Boof chat about their friendship and right as a second basketball game was starting.
And now… discuss!
Ben: Well, Phil, this one seems fairly straightforward. How do you think it’ll turn out?
Phil: Well, let’s look at what we’ve already seen. Scott is on the high school’s failing basketball team; he’s got the hots for the stuck-up popular girl, Pamela, but the much sweeter Boof is crushing on him; he’s got the sidekick, Stiles, with all his wacky T-shirts and who’s always up for shenanigans; his dad is also a werewolf. Did I miss anything?
Ben: The principal is also trying to catch him doing something wrong.
Phil: Right! Well, the first I’ll tackle is the basketball team. Scott will use his powers (hitherto unseen!) to help his team rise to victory. In a scene reminiscent of a flubber-ironed-onto-shoes type of deal, suddenly he’ll be running faster and jumping higher, albeit in Adidas sneaks.
Ben: Well, Coach Finstock says that the shoes really matter! A cautionary tale about werewolves in sub-par footwear. But yes, this film would be an absolute farce if Scottie didn’t become an overnight basketball star. They spent so much time building up the coach in the beginning. Plus, c’mon, if he’s not fighting crime, what else is he using his powers for?
Phil: You never know: he might even fight crime!
Ben: What? In this sleepy-ass town? What crime is there, except for the supernatural liquor store robbery that he himself commits?!?
Phil: Ha, I suppose that’s true. Not to immediately stray from the basketball angle, but I do feel that eventually Scott will save Pamela from something harrowing—
Ben: —perhaps sexual assault from Mick, the overbearing ’80s jerk?
Phil: Oh, that’s entirely and unfortunately quite possible: that big bruiser boyfriend Mick could easily be the Biff Tannen of this story, and Scott will use his wolfy-senses to hear him being all Biff-y from over a mile away and then come up and lay him out cold with a swift right-clawed hook to the jaw.
Ben: It’s funny you should say “wolfy-senses,” because there are some easy parallels to draw here. I don’t know much about Teen Wolf (having never watched it before, duh), but I happen to remember that it was written by Jeph Loeb, successful comic book writer. So when Scottie’s dad Howard dropped the “with great power comes great responsibility” reference, I started thinking about the Spider-Man similarities. You’ve got an awkward, unpopular, brown-haired white teen who randomly acquires odd but life-changing animal powers and has to decide how to use them.
Phil: Absolutely. And, like Spider-Man, Scott here seems to have complete control over his mind when he changes form. Most werewolf flicks involve the main character going into an altered state when he becomes the wolf, and the morning after he does not remember what he did during that timeframe. Not here, though: Scott is still Scott whether he’s Wolf-Scott or Human-Scott, and as such he is very much like Spider-Man and is able to use his powers with responsibility and direction (to save the girl or save the team or whatnot), not just run amok.
Ben: Right. Scottie has enough growing pains to endure without becoming an amnesiac with bloodlust. In fact, just as Sam Raimi used Peter Parker’s spider-powers (wet dream webbing especially) as a metaphor for puberty, so here does Loeb use uncontrollable wolf-hair as the metaphorical onset of body/pubic hair. Gonna be hard to hide from his b-ball teammates when he’s showering off the sweat from those lycanthropic lay-ups.
Phil: I hadn’t thought of that! This is indeed a very good metaphor for that part of one’s life and the tumult therein. And, yes, to get back to the basketball, Scott will definitely use his powers on the court, but I was going to ask you: how will he conceal his appearance from his teammates? Like, a Bane mask?
Ben: Stormtrooper helmet?
Phil: A werewolf mask?
Ben: Ha! But seriously (well, as seriously as one should take Teen Wolf), the film set a precedent for his uncontrolled transformations: he wolfs out, he panics while mugging to the camera, he changes back, no one sees. If… no, when he uses his powers in a b-ball game, Scottie will likely follow the same series of actions. Having him walk around town with his furry arm around a trophy in broad daylight would be too hokey… yes, even for Teen Wolf.
Phil: So you think that he’ll be moving so quickly with his new dog-tendons that people won’t notice his rancid manicure or his overly hirsute cheeks?
Ben: Something like that. It’s a goofy movie smack-dab in the middle of the ’80s. They’ll find a way for people not to notice it.
Phil: Or, wait! I was eventually going to mention that I sincerely hope that there is a scene taking place during a Halloween party. Scott’ll show up in his lupine form, and all the partygoers will be agog as to how “lifelike” his costume is. “Rad costume, dude! Cowabunga!” Perhaps this will be how he doesn’t freak out the teammates and basketball fans: Scott can merely say, “I’ll be donning my wolf costume tonight. Deal with it!”
Ben: I bet that’ll drive the principal nuts! Speaking of father figures, I bet Scottie will get a little help/training from his dad and maybe Stiles. It’s weird, but I feel like no one is solidly in Scottie’s corner. His dad seems closest, but even he’s a bit detached. Everyone else in the film seems to have a very even-keeled attitude about Scottie; they don’t love him and they don’t hate him. He’s just… some weird kid.
Phil: That’s a good point. Arguably his best friend, Stiles seems to keep Scott around more for his own amusement than any deep connection. Now that Stiles has discovered this new development in Scott’s personality, he will exploit it for some pretty rockin’ ’80s teenager antics.
Ben: Stiles is gonna take him to the mall or some other stereotypical teen hangout place, and dare Scottie to hit on a girl while in wolf-mode. The girl will giggle and think it’s hot, and we’ll never see the girl again.
Phil: Because Scott will have eaten her. I’m joking. My thought was that Stiles will coerce Scott into using his wolf-form for some gain, like money. However, using a werewolf as a wingman sounds much more along Stiles’s lines. And ’80s hilarity lines. One main plot point/antic that I am sure will occur is that, with or without Stiles, Scott will indeed join the play, and then during its run, suddenly he will pop out as Mr. Wolf, looking like Lon Chaney, Jr.
Ben: I almost forgot about the play! He wants to do the play (and its leading actress) much more than shoot hoops with Coach LoserFace.
Phil: Yeah. So he’ll pop out to deliver his monologue, but he’ll be all furry and whatnot. However, for some reason, this will be perfect for his role and he’ll receive accolade upon accolade for his brilliant and bold choices. Not only will the director fawn on him and encourage him to do more, but so will Pamela, enamored with this newly found champ of a thespian.
Ben: He’ll leave the audience howling!
Phil: Let me be perfectly clear, though: Scott will definitely wind up with Boof. Even though his attentions are focused on the phony and stuck-up bombshell, he’ll quickly realize that Boof is a much better match for him, not to mention a nicer, more sincere, and genuinely more fun person.
Ben: Once he gets Pamela’s attention, though, he’ll give it up in favor of Boof’s steady gaze and resolve. Pamela seems flighty, but being a guy with no one rooting for him 24/7, Scottie needs that kind of attention and support. Plus, his dad is pushing for it.
Phil: To continue with this plotline, he’ll also let Boof into his secret. She’ll see him saving Pamela from her situation, everyone will wonder who the “wolf-man” is, but Boof’ll figure it out. Upon being questioned by her, he’ll reveal his secret. She’ll be startled or even scared at first, but she will quickly grow to appreciate this, realizing that the person behind this woolen exterior is still the Scott that she loves, just with cool powers added onto him.
Ben: This concludes the trifecta of things that a teen would fantasize about: girls, stardom, and superpowers. The only thing left for Scottie to do is sort out how he wants to continue living with these snazzy new skills. He’d be a great monster for a Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast or something.
Phil: Ha! True, or he could give Larry Bird a run for his money. Actually, I just realized something: he heard the dog whistle in his father’s shop before any transformations occurred. The rules of his lycanthropy continue to be revealed to us, so perhaps he can escape the inquisitive gazes of the basketball fans from earlier simply by turning on just the powers that he needs, like only the jumping and swiftness.
Ben: Like I said before, it’s a kooky ’80s creature feature/teen comedy, and if they want a reason for people not to notice his fleeting wolf-face, they’ll find one. Having said that, how long can it be between leaving the ground (for a jump shot) and returning to it? Will the hair stay only as long as his powers are working? Can he turn it on and off that quickly? How far into the lunar cycle will that trick work? I’m largely enjoying the no-rules anti-explanation of his powers, but they leave an understanding gap.
Phil: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ll have to retract that last prediction. If there is going to be any hilarity in this, it will derive from running around using powers that require looking like a primordial beast and not getting caught. Speaking of which, the principal. He is suspicious of Scott and is watching him. This said, I predict that Scott will always evade his suspicions. He’ll do something with wolf-related powers and the man will be just too late to catch him in his transformed state, never quite able to get the goods on him.
Ben: I forget his name. Let’s call him “Strickland With Hair.” But the thing is, the principal has no reasonable basis for suspecting Marty—I mean, Scottie—of anything bathroom-related. Upon reflection, why is bathroom-marker-bandit even a subplot? Regardless, the Principal likely suspected something odd about Harold and his old-school were-funkiness, and wonders if he should also be leery of his kid. Not that the principal will get hard evidence, but ask any teacher: if the dad sucks as a student, the kid is also a garbage person.
Phil: Speaking of Scott’s parents, where is his mom in all of this? And it’s not the lack of mother, more of a lack of an explanation that has struck me. I would have expected in the exposition to have had a short explanation, something like, “Scott, when your mom left ten years ago…” But this is wholly absent. I expect this to be a reveal near the end: either she didn’t want to live with a werewolf, or, heaven forbid, that his dad was not always in control of how he wielded his powers and hurt her.
Ben: Although I noticed that there was no mom in the picture, I think it would be almost cheap for him to say, “Well, when your mom got hit by a tractor last June…” or some such one-off almost-explanation. Frankly, I find it really empowering that a single parent is doing a great job of raising a kid and that the movie doesn’t call attention to it. It’s a classy move. Good job, movie. Very progressive and understated.
Phil: That’s a good point, Ben. To go along with this, a lot of Disney movies have a single parent with no explanation: Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Toy Story, etc.
Ben: And a reminder from your friendly neighborhood dork: Jeph Loeb is largely a comic book writer. Most popular superheroes don’t exactly have two loving parents hanging around. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the aforementioned Spider-Man, etc.
Phil: Excellent point.
John: I think his mom is a vampire.
Ben & Phil: This isn’t your article, John!
John: I also haven’t seen the first half of this movie. Exit.
Phil: Anyway, Scott’ll get the girl, get the acclaim, and live an awesome life with wolf-powers! Didn’t Doc Brown always mention how great Scott was?
Ben: I can’t wait to see the rest of this. Zany ’80s movies are great.
Phil: Indeed. Let’s now watch this film transform into its second-half form.
AND NOW, WE FINISH THE MOVIE: