Werewolf by Night Review: Marvel’s Most Magnificent Idea
Marvel Studios spent a decade ascending to the top of Hollywood, molding itself as the production house behind the largest film franchise the world has ever seen.
With a changing landscape, the Kevin Feige-led outfit pivoted slightly, finally dipping its toes into the world of television, thanks to the advancement of streaming technology.
Come Friday, the studio will again make another slight pivot as it releases its first-ever “Special Presentation” in Werewolf by Night, a contained story with a run time somewhere between an episode of television and a feature-length film.
The End Result Is A Super-Refined Product That’s As Quality As It Is Unique.
In the span of 50 minutes, give or take a few for credits, the ensemble of the special find themselves at Bloodstone Temple, hunting a monster in hopes of winning one of the most precious MacGuffins in this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While the format is an entirely new concept to the outfit, Werewolf by Night happens to be one of the Marvel Machine’s most well-oiled items yet. There’s something to be said about how that machine was able to be formed—giving filmmakers just enough freedom to tell the vast majority of the story they want to tell while making sure they keep things within the blueprint that made Marvel Studios the hottest ticket in town.
Marvel’s Werewolf by Night Isn’t for Everyone, And That’s Okay.
Except here, where the special breaks the Marvel mold. Werewolf by Night tears off its restraints as Michael Giacchino runs wild with his storytelling. The composer-turned-director’s Marvel debut simultaneously shrugs off most Marvel trademarks while retaining a few of the quirks to satisfy franchise fans.
The overwhelming majority of the special is shot in black and white as an homage to the Universal Monsters and Hammer Horror movies, arguably the boldest choice the production house has ever made—a choice that pays off in dividends. The desaturated look allows Giacchino to craft the franchise’s most adult outing with enough blood and dismemberments to raise the question as to how the special got the green light from a family-oriented streaming service in the first place.
Without color or having to worry about a rating bureau, Marvel is able to add more blood to its sword strikes, throat cuts, and decapitations as the traditionally scarlet fluid flings aplenty. More blood is shed in a sequence riffing on Daredevil’s hallway fights than in the franchise’s other outings combined, and that’s only the beginning the tip of the blood-filled iceberg.
Marvel’s Werewolf By Night Is A Fun, Successful, Experiment
This special is a delectable monster mash, featuring the likes of Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), and the macabre Man-Thing, with each one sure to become the favorites of the franchise.
Despite a featherweight run time, the refined plot from Peter Cameron and Heather Quinn allows for a script that hyper-focuses on character work. With the entire special taking place at one location, things get incredibly intimate faster than any of Marvel’s other Disney+ outings. In fact, one could argue the story and character work of one special rival that of Marvel’s six-episode shows on the same platform.
Werewolf By Night Hits The Ground Running, Thrusting Fans Directly Into The Story.
In that sense, Werewolf by Night keeps the themes of old monster movies intact. These universal classics were poignant tales that went beyond mere “creature traits” and provided social commentary on the nature of humans’ own arrogance and colossal desires.
We see much the same here (even Elsa isn’t immune), as we’re surrounded by monster hunters who truly believe they’re evil in nature and must be wiped off the planet. Werewolf by Night does a pretty good job on its own. While there are clearly some nods to the larger MCU, the special manages to carve its own niche within its universe.