Horror isn’t my go-to genre, but I was excited to watch Werewolf by Night.
For me, this was an introduction to a side of Marvel Comics that isn’t heard about as much, but still plays a magnificent part of the comics universe. Many forget that Marvel is more than just the typical hero storylines the films have made us accustomed to. While we have been introduced to great characters by the films – diverse characters too – Marvel Comics is a repository of thousands of characters and storylines. Many of these story’s sit obscurely away from the major happenings of the Avengers and X-Men, which seems to be the focus of films and productions today.
Characters such as Dracula, Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja and Ka-Zar were all introduced during the 60’s and 70’s, and are a part of the Marvel Comics banner. In fact, Marvel Comics had a whole slew of horror-genre entries that shone during the 1970’s via their special print Marvel Magazine, featuring obscure and genre-focused stories.
Werewolf by Night is one of those stories that eventually got its own series, and is an important storyline to visit for the MCU. This short TV film is a great introduction to a part of the MCU that many of us won’t really think about, and introduces to us characters that either we’ve forgotten or taken for granted.
Werewolf by Night bares all the hallmarks of a passion project
The MCU has somewhat become predictive in its setup of characters and stories. The discussion about “Marvel fatigue” or “superhero fatigue” is not just a passing comment, but a reality of what we are seeing in the MCU at the moment. While interesting characters are being introduced, their story structures are cumbersome, long, and sometimes overkill.
This is very different.
Werewolf by Night is a deviation from the Marvel storytelling model. In fact, I feel Feige and company took a step back to allow the creatives to explore their own minds a little bit, and it shows with the final product.
Director Michael Giacchino is known for being a composer for many of our favourite films like Up and Rouge One. Here he juggles both direction and music, balancing both to create a very interesting and immersive journey. I love the choice of black and white, capturing the monster-movies vibe from the 30’s while adding a dash of colour where it matters most. Cinematographer Zoë White should be commended for being able to really capture Giacchino’s vision, while tastefully paying homage to the horror movies of old that really made the genre what it is today. Giacchino is a very competent director, and I hope he dabbles more in this field going forward.
Is there gore? Yes, there is. A lot of it. While this is probably the most graphic MCU production yet, I felt it wasn’t as much as others are making it out to be. We’ve seen extreme levels of violence in some feature films, and they are no different here. I do think the black and white effect does amplify the experience a bit. I will say overall that viewer discretion is advised for younger audiences.
I also think the vibe of the show is very much captured by the set, the art direction and costumes, managed by Maya Shimoguchi, Lauren Rosenbloom and Mayes C. Rubeo respectively. While this film is black and white, there is a lot of impressive detail on all artistic fronts that helps give the production that 30’s vibe while still being competitive to the details most modern productions showcase. I am very appreciative of the experience, and it really does come down to the various creative teams and their efforts.
I think Werewolf by Night is a refreshing experience, a good step away from other MCU productions.
Great characters and great cast
I think the casting team were spot on with Werewolf by Night.
I think Gael García Bernal is wonderful as Jack Russell, the title character if folks haven’t connected the dots by now. I think he brings an interesting aura to the role. The Jekyll and Hyde situation requires a little difference in performances, and while I know makeup and such helps, the essence of these two distinct characters needs to be very different. Bernal does that very well. His character is poised, funny, and rather intriguing.
On the flipside, we get introduced to Elsa Bloodstone, the monster hunter. Laura Donnelly is great in many ways. While we have many strong female leads in the MCU, I felt this was a character that showcased strength without the fuss. Without the need to feel like a damsel in distress or someone who didn’t understand their own potential. Donnelly’s character is strong and determined, and knowing what I know about her character in the comics, this is a perfect casting.
I have to give my hats off to the rest of the cast as well. This is a short movie, and not everyone gets the screen time they deserve, but kudos to the other actors that really brought to the table some wonderful and interesting characters that allowed the primary characters to shine. Without them, I think this story would have been a tad flat. We’ve had so many supporting characters in so many productions now, and its important we acknowledge them as they do play a huge role in the MCU’s greater narrative.
And yes, Man-Thing is in this series and he is glorious as ever. I am super happy they made his introduction in this show. I am excited to see what they do with this character going forward, but for now, Giacchino and company have done a great job with his MCU debut.
Importance of Werewolf by Night on the greater MCU
Werewolf by Night may only be a short TV special, but it is special for the whole MCU in so many ways.
Let’s establish a few things: The comic series of the same name featured the first introduction of Moon Knight (Issue #32, 1975), a series we’ve already received on Disney+. In addition, Elsa Bloodstone, Werewolf and Man-Thing are part of fantastic teams (sometimes together) like Midnight Sons, Legion of Monsters, Thunderbolts, Night Shift and the Braddock Academy. After this movie, the one’s in bold are closer to becoming a reality. Thunderbolts is already happening!
This is the MCU’s first foray into the horror genre and the opportunity to build on unique, obscure and slightly distanced characters in the Marvel world, creating and building on the world of monsters and gore that has a loyal fan following. This is a very smart move by Marvel, and great news for horror-genre fans. While some say that this will sit as as a one-off for a while, I think there are too many easter eggs and story’s kickstarted by this production to ignore.
However, what I will say is that this production may be an introduction of an all-new storytelling formula for Marvel. I find these short films to be a much more successful way of introducing new characters and brand new storylines to the MCU than multi-episode series. Their weekly-drop series make good business sense to keep viewers engaged (and subscribed) to Disney+, but this format allows for creative but effective storytelling while achieving relatively the same results. I hope Marvel gives more directors and writers the opportunity to think outside of the various boxes established to be able to tell solid stories that we can all enjoy.
Werewolf by Night is creative, spooky and refreshing. I love it and would highly recommend giving it a watch.
Werewolf by Night streams exclusively on Disney+ October 7.
Cover: Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.