It’s disheartening to see a small percentage of people view the Disney+ MCU shows as the video game equivalent to shovelware. Projects that don’t have a lot of effort put into them are there to boost their catalog. For me, this is obviously false and Marvel’s Werewolf by Night shows why this isn’t the case. This special not only explores a different side of the MCU but is something that left me in awe and craving for more.
Marvel’s Werewolf By Night is now streaming exclusively on Disney+
Story: Short and Sweet
The special just clocks in under an hour and wastes no time. While there are ties to the MCU, it’s mostly self-contained. There’s no set-up for future events and given the short runtime, that’s a good thing. It allows the viewer to adjust to the supernatural corner without worrying about any other movies or tv shows. If someone was new to the MCU, you could show them this first and they’ll be fine. The presentation is set around a group of monster hunters honoring one of their own. They compete to earn the fallen member relic, the Bloodstone, that grants the user power beyond what they know.
Such a simple premise that’s done extraordinarily well and has suspense to it. The only nitpick I have with this TV movie is the mythology. Granted, writing a scene that explains the details of Jack’s condition being a werewolf would have bogged down the movie. However, I’ve always been fascinated with monsters and how each adaptation makes its own. Now with the MCU, we only get a tiny bit. Maybe it’s me being greedy, but I was wishing for a bit more.
Characters & Performances: Couple of Hunters and Someone Named Ted
For the few moments we got to meet our main characters, they left quite the impression. Gael García Bernal gives Jack Russell a sense of earnfulness and trying to help the less fortunate. I felt immediately drawn to him and wanted to know more about him. The other main character is Elsa Bloodstone portrayed by Laura Donnelly. Elsa is fantastic as she’s trying to get through her family trauma. Combined with her incredible fighting skills and she’s someone that I want to see more of.
Maybe the surprising thing in this special is how great Man Thing is. Going by his name Ted, he’s a companion to Jack. Whenever he’s on-screen, you’re immediately drawn to him. Also, it’s great to see that they brought him to life practically. Yes, there’s some digital work, but anytime practical effects are used then it’s a win.
Cinematography & Sound: Behold, Michael Giacchino
There’s one major star to this special and it’s Michael Giacchino. Known for being a composer, this is his first big directing gig. And for his first time being in the director chair, he made one of the most breathtaking projects in the MCU. Werewolf by Night is heavily inspired by the Universal Studios horror films of the 30s’ and 40s’. Filmed in glorious black and white, it’s just dripping with atmosphere. The location is a labyrinth of wonders and filled with some amazing gothic structures.
The black and white also amps up something we don’t see in the MCU, the gore factor. If this was in color, we definitely would have seen less blood. But since you can’t see the color it means Giacchino went all out. This is some of the most brutal kills we’ve seen so far in the MCU. Now if you’re squeamish or not a fan of horror, I still think there’s a lot of value for you. While it’s going for the classic Universal look, it doesn’t mean it’s scary by any means. It’s more a homage to the look and feel rather than the scares.
He Shoots, He Scores
Giacchino pulls double duty as he composes Werewolf by Night. His vision pairs perfectly with the score he created. The theme that he creates for Jack has a lot of grandiose to it, especially when he turns. Even with something simple as the Marvel opening theme, he puts a horror twist on it. It’s another win in a masterful catalog of music.
Editing & Pacing: More Like an Episode
As mentioned before, the nature of this special is self-contained. It feels more like a tv episode than a movie which isn’t a bad thing. They don’t feel the need to stretch out the story with references to previous works and trying to build its own corner of the universe. By solely focusing on Jack and Elsa, it keeps everything on a nice pace.