So I just finished watching the Marvel Disney+ special presentation Werewolf by Night. The special is directed by composer Michael Giacchino and stars Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell, and Laura Donnelly as Else Bloodstone. The special is based on the Werewolf by night comic character created by Gerry Conway, Michael G. Plug, Roy Thomas, and Jean Thomas. This is the perfect time of year for a special like this. Seeing as we’re in the spooky season of October and Halloween, this is a special that fits perfectly around it. Also I will warn that if you haven’t seen it yet, there will be spoilers of things that happen in it. Though there won’t be many as there isn’t really too much to spoil.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this special. Everything about it put on this kind of nostalgic feeling of classic monster movies, with the production quality and value of a modern marvel project mixed with classic B-movies. It’s not too serious, but also doesn’t treat itself like a joke. It is a faithful representation of those styles of movie with a modern flair. From the setting to the story to the music it’s all faithful and great. They really put some effort into this, you can tell they love those old movies. The performances were all great, Bernal and Donnelly did great jobs as their characters. I feel like Donnelly might have had more to work with as she gets more action in this special whereas Bernal waits a bit until the second half. Another character worth mentioning is MAN-THING (regressing the urge to make a Swamp-Thing animated series intro reference here). He was handled great in this special, a mysterious figure that we don’t know much about in the MCU (yet) but his relationship with the main characters is fun, and I like how he turns around if you know his name. He was adapted pretty much perfectly. I don’t know much about him from the comics but from what we’ve gotten it’s perfect.
I think Giacchino was a great choice for this, he is a first time director but you can see his influences in it. He makes some great choices in it in terms of the action and handling the lighting of the special. Visually the special is great, the b&w look of the special is great and doesn’t cover anything. The lighting really works for this, it’s a little dark and moody and spooky but doesn’t drop down to be too dark to see anything. Even the scenes where the light is slowly fading during some of the big set pieces of the special, it all works and looks great. Doesn’t detract from the overall feel. The action was pretty good, I feel like the only issues I had with it was with Else Bloodstone as she felt a lot like the spy type action we get from the black widow type characters. At least her first fight really reminds me of the opening fight in Captain America: Civil War. Doesn’t help its a similar silhouette to that scene.
Other than that the action is great, the Werewolf stuff at the final act was awesome. The stand-out moment being that scene in the kind of hallway when the door is closing with the light going down with it. We get some cool werewolf action, a hallway fight, and some surprising gore. I’m relatively shocked that they were able to get away with what they did in this special. It is pretty brutal in some scenes, some stand-outs being the aforementioned werewolf stuff, as well as the man-thing kills. Those were awesome and everything I hoped they would be, as they brutal and pretty horrifying from a certain view. I do feel like they were able to get away with this because it’s a Disney+ special in b&w so there’s no red blood. The music is great throughout the special, composer Giacchino does a great job at making the music feel like it fits right in with old universal monster movies. It has the right amount of suspense and dread, as well as bombast and fanfare.
The effects work is all great, being that outside of the colour grade there isn’t too much but still a good amount of digital effects. Such as the main man himself Man-Thing, who is a perfect adaptation of the comic book design. The colour does enhance the effects though as the digital blood doesn’t really take you out as much as it might if it was coloured red. I love how they handled the transformation scene, showing him changing in silhouette as the camera dollies in on Elsa’s shocked and scared face. The design of the werewolf is great as well, he looks like a classic wkolfman, but with a bit more hair, a more human featured face, and the facial tattoos of Jack. I love how they went with a classic dude in a suit for a lot of the werewolf stuff instead of full digital, I always love a good monster costume.
My issues with this special are few in between. My first one is that outside of the motivations they show us, the main characters don’t really go in a arc in this. I can see why they didn’t as this is just kind of showing off these characters and establishing their relationships for the future. I kind of wish there was a bit more of a story reason for the end change into colour. Although maybe its done to show that these characters and events are in the main MCU and will becoming back eventually out of this situation. These are probably just symptoms of my biggest issue, that the special could have been longer. I feel like if it had more time we could have fleshed these characters out more. Although I guess that will be for the future.
I mean we’re going to see these characters again eventually. It establishes and builds up a new magical artifact, with potential connections to other stuff in the MCU. A new side of the universe is shown off of darkness, horror, and monsters that we will be seeing more in the future with Blade and possibly Black Knight. Man-Thing will especially be important in the future if he serves the same role as his comic counterpart does, with all the multiverseal stuff going on at the moment.
Over-all Werewolf By Night is a great special that is a lot of fun and perfect for this season we’re in. If you like old monster movies I can’t recommend this enough. Two-thumbs up ! It’s worth a watch and might be on my halloween watch-list going forward.