Follows a lycanthrope superhero who fights evil using the abilities given to him by a curse brought on by his bloodline.
Michael Giancchino has had a few rounds with Marvel Studios in the past as a composer in the music department for Doctor Strange (2016) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spiderman trilogy directed by Jon Watts. This time he’s making his directorial debut with Marvel’s first Halloween special on Disney Plus, and it’s easily one of the best forms of art Marvel Studios has produced in quite some time. This was a completely unconventional approach and tone from anything that has come before, while feeling like it’s in the same universe as past releases while also simultaneously branching off into its own corner of darkness. If this is what Giancchino can do for his first time up to bat, it’d be smart for the studio to keep him around for as long as they can.
The duration is only 52 minutes but in that short time, it’s still able to leave a lasting impression of greatness. Each Marvel Studios’ intro score used in each film/television show has its own unique style that will leave you surprised. The mostly black and white filter used here created a great effect of mystery and suspense not knowing what’s lurking around the corner. This filter also helped manage the amount of violence that was seen on screen. If this was done in color, I’m confident the rating would’ve been TV-MA, but this design choice was able to hide the amount of carnage while also serving it to you raw as an audience member. Whether it was blood, sweat, smoke, or flashing lights all aspects popped on screen visually leaving you shocked and entertained.
The performances were stellar as well. I was able to get to know most of the characters while still not getting to know them. They all were extremely different from one another as if it were the best of the best gathered up in one room. It was very clear through showing and telling us with simple dialogue that everyone involved worked very hard to earn their position which just made the stakes higher. Even though each character didn’t have a speaking part, their presence was still felt very strongly throughout their engagement with others. Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) however was the standout with her performance. Everyone did exceptionally well, but she stole the show with her wild cult-like behavior. She went from 0 to 100 instantly with her delivery and speech patterns, and it was a little scary. At some moments you could be tricked into believing that this is a sweet old lady that just hung around the wrong crowd, and then a few seconds later she appears to be the mother of Satan.
Another aspect that was most exciting was getting into the unknown world of Marvel. This was possibly the darkest ideals they’ve made by far. There was so much mystery as to answering the who, why, and how all of this came to be. What is the origin of it all, and how does it fit into the bigger universe? The questions are addressed and barely answered. Leaving you satisfied, but still open to more possibilities of development for the future.
Now like all Marvel properties they feel some obligation to force comedy in certain situations. Now don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the comedy in Marvel half the time, but the other half it can be a bit forced and ruin a superhero moment or time of tension. That isn’t the case here, fortunately, but the light-hearted comedy wasn’t necessary. Werewolf By Night wasn’t scary but could’ve been. It was a missed opportunity, but not a ruined one. It can be confusing at times when Marvel makes these decisions as if they believe audience members will walk away saying, “Yeah I like it, but it just wasn’t funny enough.” Unless there is screen testing that suggests this, which I’m not aware of, this will be a question that will forever haunt me.
Though transitioning over to the amount of gore and violence this special doesn’t miss a bit. If that’s what you’re looking for you won’t be disappointed. It can be quite brutal at times which came across perfectly. The men and the women are throwing down, hand to hand, and weapon to weapon, and it’s every person for themselves with monsters lurking in the background. Again, it was a surprising delight to see all of this unfold. The costume design needs a shade of recognition too because that stood out as well.
Having medium to low expectations, Werewolf By Night is one of the best releases of art they’ve produced in a while. Near perfection, and I’m beyond surprised with all of the bloody violence that worked exceptionally well! This was a fantastic introduction to the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And again the direction & score from Michael Giacchino was superb and set the tone in ways I didn’t think Disney Plus would explore. So excited to begin seeing the darker side of the MCU.